By Harvey Frankel
I HAVE been involved with Yad Vashem and their twinning project for a few years now, yet it still brings me joy every time one of today’s simchas is twinned with a child of the Holocaust, who was murdered by the Nazis before he or she lived long enough to embrace this milestone in Jewish life.
At Chigwell & Hainault Synagogue, which has a thriving community, we are blessed with many bar and batmitzvahs, most of which are now twinned.
The children take meticulous care to do in depth research into their allocated twin to deliver an interesting and heartfelt story. Each one is unique and extremely moving.
More than 1.5 million children perished in the Holocaust, many younger than 12 years old. Approximately 850 children have now been twinned. There is a long way to go, but it would be amazing if, at some point in time, every child is remembered in this way.
Two years ago, my wife Lynne and I were fortunate to be invited by Yad Vashem UK to attend their Gala Dinner in London, an amazing event with interesting speakers including the Israeli ambassador, the Chief Rabbi and former MP Luciana Berger.
Because of the current pandemic, this dinner and other fundraising events had to be cancelled. Yad Vashem, like many important charities, relies solely on voluntary contributions. They receive no government help whatsoever, which means these fundraisers are the only means of support.
In January, they launched a 36-hour, online fundraiser. The aim was to raise £180,000, a huge task but necessary to carry on the vital work they do. I was asked to be a team leader and to help with the fundraising. This is not something I’m familiar with but said I would have a go.
A page was set up for me and on which I added my own personnel story, my connection to Yad Vashem and its twinning programme, and set a modest target of £500.
The morning that the event went live, I sent my page out to various individuals and the numerous groups I’m on, and waited for the response.
I didn’t have to wait long. The donations started to roll in, and within a few hours I had reached my target. It was decided that I should raise my target … I did so twice further. I’m happy to say that by the end of the event, I’d raised a staggering £1,908!
For this I thank the amazing generosity of the Chigwell & Hainault community. I am happy to say Yad Vashem UK as a whole exceeded their target, allowing them to continue the vital work of education and twinning.
This coming June, my granddaughter Ellie will be celebrating her batmitzvah. I’m in the process of arranging her twin. It will be very interesting to see who she will be twinned with and then to do the research into the family. Who knows what we will discover and what family still exists.
If you would like to know more about the twinning programme – which is open to all Jewish communities – or wish to make a donation to support it, please email me on email@example.com.
If you wish to donate to Yad Vashem UK please go to the website www.yadvashem.org.uk or call 020 8187 9881.