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Special Generation

Dr. Robert Coblens was in optometry school when Pearl Harbor was attacked.  He enlisted in 1942 and became part of the 222nd Airborne Medics.  He went to Europe in 1944 as part of a paratrooper medical supply unit for General Patton’s Medical Tank Corps, setting up field hospitals in France.  Dr. Coblens was about to retrain for duty in the Pacific when the bombs fell on Japan.  Fortunately, he could go home to Connecticut to his wife and a 10-month-old daughter he had never seen.
Today that “baby” lives in Laguna Niguel.  Dr. Coblens, a former synagogue president and a swimmer who wanted a senior residence nearby with a synagogue and a swimming pool, lives at Heritage Pointe, the luxurious Jewish home for the aging in Mission Viejo.
Dr. Coblens, who has “always been an organizer,” founded a synagogue and a Jewish community center in Connecticut before moving to the San Fernando Valley with his wife, Dorothy, now deceased, and their children in 1952.  He practiced optometry, became president of a synagogue, traveled around the world and eventually retired to Leisure Village in Oceanside.  When Dorothy had symptoms of Alzheimer’s, they moved to Heritage Pointe, where she sculpted and sang in the chorale and he – naturally – served for 6 years as the president of the residents’ association.
Under the same roof is Sigmund “Ziggy” Silbert, who lived through the same era under very different circumstances.  Silbert, who grew up in Poland, was 17 when the war started in 1939.  At one point he was nabbed by the secret police at 3 a.m. and taken in an open freight car to Siberia.  He remembers the Saturday afternoon when the whole family was sitting in the living room and the Gestapo came and took his father away.  Putting a few items in a pillowcase, he hid in the Carpathian Mountains, and hundreds of Jews from his village followed him.  At one point he climbed to the top of a tall tree and tied himself to it with his tefillin.
For 2 years he lived with the family of a righteous gentile near the village where he was born.  Later, upon seeing Gestapo boots, he hid in the forest.  “I survived, because I never believed anyone could kill me,” he said.
“Survival came naturally,” said Silbert, who became resourceful out of necessity.  He traded his ski boots for a gun and also had a knife.  He ate fruits and nuts from the forest and learned how to catch fish.
Liberated by the Russians before the war ended, Silbert went to Breslau and then Munich where he trained to become a typewriter mechanic.  Without speaking a word of English he applied for and obtained a visa (“because wherever you stand in the United States, a piece of the sky belongs to you”) and ended up in Chicago before moving westward.  Today, he makes keychains and other trinkets in his workshop on his patio at Heritage Pointe.
These are but two stories of Heritage Pointe residents who lived through one of the most challenging eras in history and came through it with faith, survival skills and a great appreciation for what they have.  If everyone has a story to tell, this generation has a story that must never be forgotten.
On Sunday evening, November 20, at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach, Heritage Pointe’s 21st Gala, “A Celebration of Life and Liberty,” will honor its residents who are Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans.  Many of the liberators and the liberated will be in attendance that evening.
“This evening promises to be an emotional, uplifting and memorable event and a great benefit to Heritage Pointe’s Resident Assistance Fund, which enables many worthy individuals without adequate financial means to enjoy a better, more secure life at Heritage Pointe,” said Pamela Davis, director of special events at Heritage Pointe.  A patron party, where those who offer additional support can mingle and help underwrite the gala, will be held on Sunday evening, October 23, at Sam and Harry’s Restaurant at the Marriott Fashion Island.
Honorary chairs for the gala are Michael and Nancy Meyer.  Beth Slavin, the event chair, is supported by an enthusiastic and creative committee.  A gourmet, kosher, sit-down dinner will be part of this black-tie optional evening that will feature music, dancing , a live auction and a special ceremony.
General ticket reservations are $275 per person, with patron tickets starting at $500 per person up to $18,000 for a table of ten.  Each of the seven patron levels includes various benefits, and all patrons can attend the November 20 gala and October 23 patron party.
For more than 20 years Heritage Pointe has provided a continuum of care to seniors throughout Orange County and Long Beach.  The staff is dedicated to meeting the religious and spiritual needs of the residents.  Traditional Judaic programs, services and festivities are featured within the community.  Shabbat services are beautifully conducted in the stunning synagogue on the premises.
Heritage Pointe combines high quality healthcare and housing in a traditional Jewish environment and provides a variety of classes, activities and amenities.  It has an elegant dining room serving kosher food and art throughout the facility.
There is a range of services for residents in need of little to moderate assistance.  The staff includes an on-site administrator (RN), nurses, medical technicians and caregivers.
Opened in 2008 the Ruth Feuerstein Residence, Heritage Pointe’s memory care community, gives loved ones experienced specialized care in a safe and secure environment.  In addition, there is 24-hour personalized care with an exceptional staff ratio, private landscaped gardens, scenic walking paths, entertainment lounge, individual activity areas, a family conversation room, stimulating activity programs and furnished accommodations.
For additional information, contact Pamela Davis, Director of Special Events at Heritage Pointe: 949-364-0010 or visit the website : www.heritagepointe.org.  A


  1. I met the Coblens at their home in the vally of L.A. in the the summer of 1972. They are relatives of my wife Rina (born Floman). Outstanding people. I regret not to meet them since.


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