When I saw the Yiddish word “katchkelach” mentioned in an article about the Sunshine Circle, an organization devoted to bringing Jewish teenagers into a friendship circle with local Holocaust survivors, my heart stopped. Certain words can trigger memories. I hadn’t heard that word in 65 years !
My father used to call me “katchkelach” when he returned from World War II. That was my nickname for years.
I did not know it meant “little ducks” until I read a column written by Shaindy Friedman’s organization, The Sunshine Circle. It was used in the context of a local Holocaust survivor’s life story that began in Hungary.
Shaindy believes in the power of memories. She feels the time has come for local Holocaust survivors to share their individual stories with a Jewish teenager, so that these memories will be not lost but cherished. You might call it the ultimate “sitdown.”
“There are more than fifty survivors in the desert,” said Shaindy. These men and women are messengers of memories and the heartbeat of the Sunshine Circle. But first the back story on Shaindy.
She is one of fourteen children of Rabbi Yonason and Sussie Denebeim. The Rabbi and Sussie represent the Chabad of the Desert in Palm Springs and are well known in the community for their good deeds.
Shaindy is 29 years old, married to Rabbi Mendy Friedman and the mother of three small children. She attended Mashon Shoshanat of Yerushalayim in Israel prior to establishing the Sunshine Circle. She devotes her time to connecting Holocaust survivors with local Jewish teenagers.
“I pair Jewish teens with local Holocaust survivors so that they can pass their story on to the next generation. Many of these survivors have extraordinary recall, such as Nathan Hoffman, born in Hungary and now 94 years old. He resides in the desert.”
I came across an article Shaindy authored about Hoffman in a local publication. She wrote of her initial visit with him with such kindness that I had to find out more about the Sunshine Circle. I mentioned this incident to Cindy Kjaergaard, a friend whose parents were Holocaust survivors. They settled in Bamberg, Germany, after World War II. Cindy was born there in 1947. She befriended another Holocaust survivor, Eva Krause, when they both resided in Minneapolis. Today, coincidentally, they live in the desert; and Eva just happens to be one of the Holocaust survivors active in the Sunshine Circle.
Shaindy continues to pair Jewish teens with Holocaust survivors on a one-to-one basis. Meetings are scheduled once or twice a month. These conversations between teens and survivors are more than therapeutic. Communicating the life experiences of these survivors to teens who know only of the Holocaust through movies and books is not enough.
Thanks to Shaindy, the commitment of linking the Holocaust to the future has added a dimension to Jewish history.
The Sunshine Circle is small but mighty, and the relationships that have been established are as vital as they are heartwarming. As Holocaust survivors share their journeys with teenagers, memories come to the surface.
In Hoffman’s case, during an interview with Shaindy, he spoke about his youth in Hungary before the Holocaust and his ultimate liberation from the Maulthausen concentration camp. He told her about his family before the Nazi regime separated his parents from their six children, and he named each brother and sister. His memory is remarkable. Shaindy eventually paired him with a Jewish teen who will continue these conversations. For all involved, a friendship blossoms.
“The Sunshine Circle started in 2010,” said Shaindy. “There are about 50 teens now involved. Survivors are now in their 80s and 90s, so there is no time to waste in preserving this precious legacy.”
The Advisory Board for the Sunshine Circle includes local supporters such as Jean C. Carrus, Jerry and Barbara Keller and Rick and Marcia Stein. For further information, visit www.SunshineCircle.org, firstname.lastname@example.org or call Shaindy Friedman at (760) 636 5549.
Pam Price is the desert correspondent for blogs.forbes.com/pamprice/.
The phone number for the Follies in last month’s Desert Destinations was wrong. It should be (760) 327-0225.
Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade Guardian Angel
Community Leader Helene Galen was named Guardian Angel of the 21st Annual Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade on December 1 at 5:45 p.m.. Galen, who is Jewish, was born in the United Kingdom and has been honored for her work with a variety of organizations.
Galen has made contributions to the Palm Springs Art Museum, the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center for Abused Children at Eisenhower Medical Center and the new Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert, dubbed “The Galen.” According to Palm Spring Mayor Steve Pougnet, “Helene Galen is a tremendous community leader who is much loved in the City of Palm Springs and throughout the Coachella Valley, thanks to her beautiful spirit and generous philanthropy. I can’t think of a more perfect Guardian Angel to help Palm Springs residents and visitors ring in the holiday season.”