Fifteen years ago, Helping Hand Coalition began with a movie premiere of a documentary called Izak, based on the incredible life of Izak Goldfinger, a Holocaust survivor who was nine years old when the war started and survived not one but ELEVEN concentration camps! Upon learning that over 70% of the survivors of the Holocaust were living below the poverty line in Israel, Andre Gasiorowski (Co-Founder and Chairman), his family, and friends came together to provide aid and build relationships with the survivors. Since its founding, Helping Hand Coalition has organized events, begun numerous projects, aided tens of thousands of survivors of the Holocaust, and established multiple delegations that have traveled worldwide to bring awareness to the Holocaust and preserve its memory.
On September 14th, in the Jonah Convention Center at the Vert Lagoon Hotel in Netanya, over three hundred participants – Helping Hand Coalition Global Forum board members and delegates; Israeli government and Knesset members, diplomats, heads of municipalities; leaders of prominent Israeli NGO’s; organizations of survivors of the Holocaust, World War II veterans; and other distinguished guests celebrated the work and history of the organization along with the 15th anniversary of Helping Hand Coalition and the 10th anniversary of Helping Hand Global Forum! Taking attendees on a journey through the years, Andre Gasiorowski and Luke Gasiorowski hosted the event, creating an incredible time of memories, appreciation, recognition, and community.
In welcoming attendees to the event, Luke Gasiorowski (President of Helping Hand Coalition) expressed gratitude to the honored guests and Israeli politicians who had accepted their invitations. Andre Gasiorowski (CEO of Helping Hand Global Forum) followed by speaking of the multi-cultural family created in the fifteen years of service to the survivors before playing a movie of Knesset politicians — featuring Prime Minister Yair Lapid; the Minister of Tourism, Yoel Razvozov; and Knesset Member, Tatiana Mazarski — speaking their support for Helping Hand Global Forum. Bozena Gasiorowski (Co-Founder and Board Member of HHC) also shared on meeting Izak for the first time and thanked Helping Hand Coalition’s team for their dedication and work.
During the event, many distinguished guests were invited to speak. In an impassioned speech, Israeli Knesset member, Ruth Wasserman Lande, talked about the importance of Helping Hand Coalition’s work. She highlighted the significance of not only lending a hand to the survivors of the Holocaust but teaching others to understand, respect, and remember the horrors that are still possible as antisemitism continues to rage throughout the world. Ruth Wasserman Lande also acknowledged Ahmed Obaid al Mansoori’s presence, a delegate from the United Arab Emirates, for how his country has embraced the Jewish people.
Staring into the eyes of survivors of the Holocaust and decorated World War II veterans, Zeev Elkin, Minister of Construction and Minister in the PMO and liaison between the Knesset and government, felt moved to share his family’s history and the reason he’s dedicated his life to working with Holocaust survivors. He said, “It’s not just humanitarian work. The Holocaust is not just a history, but a part of my family.”
Knesset Member, Alexander Kushnir, was given a round of applause as he announced an increase of more than 70% in governmental support for the survivors of the Holocaust. He said, “We are going to do more because the memory of what you have done and your heroism has to be rewarded.” While addressing Andre Gasiorowski and Helping Hand Coalition, he added, “Thank you for being an example for us on how to do things.”
In an emotional acknowledgment of Izak Goldfinger’s family, Andre Gasiorowski asked Izak’s daughter, Bella, and her sons, Tal and Ken, to come to the front so he could give them certificates and the profound book “Every Single One Was Someone” — a 2,500-page book with one word, JEW, written six million times. Filled with awe at being given such a gift and of her father’s part in it, Bella encouraged Andre, “Continue your marvelous work and bless everyone who comes here.”
Adorned in his war medals, Abraham Grinzaid, an honorary president of Helping Hand Global Forum and Chairman of the Veterans Union of WWII Fighters Against Nazism, thanked Andre and everyone within the coalition for standing with them and helping the survivors and veterans when they needed it the most.
Since the beginning, Helping Hand Coalition has partnered with Gita Koifman and her organization, the Association of Concentration Camps and Ghetto Survivors in Israel. As she held the microphone to give a speech of gratitude and celebration for their years of friendship, Gita held back tears as she said, “I can still remember the day we met because it was a historical moment. We already existed as an organization, but we could do very, very little to help on the level we do now.” Gita continued as she presented Andre with a gift. “Today’s jubilee is a birthday, and on birthdays people receive gifts. Our organization thought very long for something symbolic to give you, and we chose this horn/shofar. The shofar is a special instrument. It was used as a calling for people to gather together. It was a warning about dangers. And today, we know it as a symbol to call us for the holidays. Dear Andre, we see you as a living human voice. You have always been our shofar. You speak in the name of the Holocaust survivors, new immigrants, and people who need love and help. Your voice has been heard in Germany, Poland, Dubai, America, and Asia. I can never put into words all the feelings I experienced when I stood in front of the Pope in the Vatican with you, Bozena, and Luke. Your voice was heard there too.”
Encouraging the room to stand and applaud Andre and Bozena Gasiorowski for the selfless work they have committed their lives to, Boaz Harpaz, a Board Member of Helping Hand Global Forum, spoke of the Bible’s command to give the firstfruit of our labors to others rather than taking the first bite for ourselves. He said, “Everyone wants to take the firstfruit and taste it. I have the big honor of knowing two people that wake up in the morning, and the first thing they do instead of taking care of themselves or their family is to give to the other. The first one is Bozena, and the other one is Andre.” Boaz Harpaz also reminded the guests of their two greatest responsibilities: 1) To ensure the Holocaust survivors are given respect and live in good condition. 2) To never forget what happened during the Holocaust. He announced, “One year ago, we made a commitment with Andre Gasiorowski that people around the world would never forget what happened. The first step is in the Vatican. We are going to build a museum that tells the story of this important time. But also tell the story of [100,000] Christians and Muslims who supported the Jews during WWII; not only this, but they behaved like human beings and took a risk to protect the Jews.”
Helping Hand Global Forum has expanded exceedingly since it was founded a decade ago. Earlier this year, a delegation was invited to the Vatican to discuss a new project that will be a memorial to the Holocaust and honor those who risked their lives to save the Jews from the Nazis. In this delegation were Board Members of Helping Hand Global Forum – representatives from Israel (Andre Gasiorowski, Chairman, and other Board Members such as Boaz Harpaz, Executive Coordinator of the HHGF delegation, and Gita Koifman), Germany (Klaus Dewald, President of the Global Relief Network and Harald Eckert, Chairman of Christians for Israel), Poland (Serafina Ogonczyk-Makowska, lawyer, and political activist), and the United Arab Emirates (Ahmed Obaid AlMansoori, Founder of the First Holocaust Memorial Gallery and public Holocaust Memorial Event in Yom HaShoah in the Arabic and the Islamic world). Inviting the delegation to the stage, Andre Gasiorowski presented them with an award for their work. He also gave Serafina Ogonczyk-Makowska and Ahmed Obaid al Mansoori the book, “Every Single One Was Someone.”
Thanking Andre for the invitation to be part of Helping Hand Global Forum’s work, Ahmed Obaid al Mansoori said, “Usually people only commemorate the dead, but today we are honoring those with us today.”
During the ceremony, Luke Gasiorowski was awarded Man of the Year 2022. As a show of agreement and recognition, the signatures of friends and partners were scattered around the award. The certificate rightfully stated, “On behalf of Helping Hand Coalition Global Forum, we award Luke Gasiorowski with the title of Man of the Year, whose life is an example of the ideal of living for the benefit of others and who is devoted to the practices promoting moral values, for sacrificing for the condition of people in need and Holocaust survivors in Israel, their well-being and preserving their memory and inspirational change for good.”
Also recognized for their partnership was the team from GAiN Germany. Throughout the years, they have shipped containers with goods to distribute to survivors, lone soldiers, families in need, and those less fortunate. Rather than send the containers ahead of them, the team decided to drive three trucks full of supplies from Germany to Israel to celebrate this momentous milestone. Attendees watched in amazement as a video of their journey was played. After welcoming the team to the stage, Andre gave them honorary certificates for their work. In return, Norbert Palimaka, President of GAiN Poland and the ESPA Foundation, gave Andre a crystal statue to congratulate Helping Hand Coalition on its 15th anniversary.
Thirteen years ago, March of Life was established in Tübingen, Germany, after Pastor Jobst Bittner and his community learned that they were all descendants of Nazis. Looking to arouse public opinion, they organized a march along the axis of where the Death March took place near the extermination camp in the area. At first, Pastor Bittner thought this would be a one-time thing; however, after connecting with Holocaust survivors and other Germans, their organization has since grown into a yearly event in more than four hundred cities worldwide! Speaking on behalf of the March of Life (known in Israel as March of Nations), Igal Even Ziv (Board Member of the Helping Hand Global Forum and Israeli representative of the March of the Nations) spoke of their connection with Helping Hand Coalition and thanked the Gasiorowskis for their work. He also invited attendees to join the March of Nations next year, on the 75th anniversary of the State of Israel, for a march through Jerusalem to demonstrate the peace of Jerusalem.
One of the final people to speak was Dror Eydar, the former Ambassador of Israel to Italy. During his time in Rome, the Italians often asked Dror Eydar why the Holocaust happened. In his speech, he shared the history of the dispersed people after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70AD. He said, “For nineteen centuries, we were homeless. But if we could go back 2000 years and ask one of these Jewish slaves, ‘What is your dream?’ We know that he would answer, ‘To come back home and reconstruct Jerusalem from its ruin. To reconstruct our independent state.’ And we know that he believed in this; it wasn’t an empty phrase. In the end, we would come back home because there is hope for our people! So, what we are doing now to help the rest of the people — our brothers and sisters who survived the Holocaust — is fulfilling this idea that has connected us for many many years. We have to keep this flame [alive] for the next generation because Israel is the hope, not only of our people but for all the world!”
At the end of the ceremony, a buffet lunch was served, allowing guests to connect with one another. With a breeze from the Mediterranean Sea blowing gently through the event hall, guests ate with the survivors, listened to further talk of the upcoming projects to preserve the history of the Holocaust, and thanked the team for their dedication.
Fifteen years is a great cause for celebration, but this is only the beginning! Helping Hand Coalition and Global Forum are dedicated to serving the survivors of the Holocaust until the very last one leaves us; even then, the work will not stop to keep their memory alive!
Helping Hand Coalition extends its deepest gratitude to the guests, team, survivors, hosts, Lagoon Resort Hotel, and everyone involved in making this a memorable day. Helping Hand would cease to exist without each of your support, so thank you for standing with us all these years!