- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 26, 2009

CITIZEN JOURNALISM:

Although I grew up in Bethesda and have lived in Montgomery County my entire life, my first real contact with the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington was two years ago, after my father, David Appelbaum, suffered a stroke and spent his final days there. I was impressed by how respectful and compassionate the staff members were when caring for my father.

After he passed away, I wanted to do something to express my appreciation. Recently, I read an article about a woman, a Holocaust survivor, who had passed away. She had been silent about her experiences for many years, until she began hearing about Holocaust deniers. Then she became an active public speaker to share her stories.

I wondered how many survivors might be living in the Hebrew Home. It seemed to me that there would be a wonderful opportunity to honor the survivors and educate others about their lives. At the same time, I could thank the Hebrew Home for the excellent care it had provided my father. So I organized a luncheon with the nearly 40 Holocaust survivors who live there as the guests of honor and invited guests from the Progress Club and student volunteers at the home to come and meet them. It is my hope that some of the survivors will be willing to tell their stories in their own words.

I am a member of the Progress Club, a social and charitable organization in Rockville that was founded almost 100 years ago. Our foundation has donated more than $1 million to various charities over the years, including the Hebrew Home. I discussed my idea with Art Leibman, who chairs the foundation. Together with staff from the Charles E. Smith Life Communities, which owns operates the Hebrew Home, we were able to invite the Holocaust survivors living there and begin planning the event.

On Aug. 9, the Progress Club and its charitable foundation will host a luncheon at Ring House, another Charles E. Smith community in Rockville. I feel it is an important time to hold such an event, given the recent fatal shooting of a guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the limited window of time to speak to the residents, who range in age from 82 to 102, I feel it is so very important to be planning an event like this.

I look forward to an unforgettable experience.

• Joel Appelbaum, owner of Consignment Furniture Gallery in Beltsville, is a member of the Progress Club.


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