Holocaust survivors celebrate senior prom in Toronto
To Holocaust survivors, the phrase "never forget" is about remembering a time of tremendous human tragedy.
But last night, a group of 400 Toronto seniors had another kind of night to remember, celebrating their lives with dinner, dancing and dandy outfits at a senior prom for those who escaped death at the hands of Hitler's regime.
The event continues to gain popularity each year as elderly men and women pin yellow roses to themselves and experience a rite of high school that they missed in their youth.
"When you come here, you see the survivors, you see there's hope," said Joe Betel, an 83-year-old survivor who brought his sweetheart, his wife Carmela, to the prom at the Sephardic Kehila Centre. Both of their grandchildren were also with them.
The yellow roses the seniors wear are a reference to Auschwitz survivor Franka Kon's quote to a photographer in 2011: "I used to wear a yellow star; now I am celebrated with a yellow rose."
'Tell the people about your life'
Inspired by Kon's words, 28-year-old Elise Kayfetz, who calls herself an "aging advocate," organized the Senior Prom as an inter-generational party to give Holocaust survivors something to celebrate. The event is organized through the Yellow Rose Project.
"The reality is that survivors are passing away and that's why we need to do it so much and so fast," Kayfetz said about the need to give Holocaust survivors happier memories.
Thousands of dollars were donated to the event and dozens of volunteers arrived to help the party run smoothly.
Although 84-year-old Stanley Frydman said it was joyous to be among friends, his brother's last words at a concentration camp in Poland still haunt him.
"I hope you will survive. Tell the people about your life. They shouldn't forget what's happened," Frydman said his brother told him.
As a reminder, Frydman keeps a picture of the day he was freed in his pocket.
An estimated 10,000 Holocaust survivors reside in the Greater Toronto Area, according to the Yellow Rose Project. The organization is already taking names for the next senior prom and similar events are being planned in New York and Israel.