Know where you came from and where you are going. Words that penetrate the heart. Recently these words got a special meaning in my Mum and Dad’s home. One moment before it’s too late, thanks to my Or’s wonderful initiation, we held a living room memorial, or to be precise – in the garden.
My father, Danny Labanovsky and his “trouble club mate” Danny Chanoch, shared their personal story and the story of 131 children from Kovno, Lithuania. These children were aged 8 – 11 and were parted from their parents to be sent to their death; it was a story of solidarity and the strength of children left alone in the world to travel through the hardships of the Holocaust as a group: Landsberg, Dachau, Auschwitz, the March of Death, Mauthausen and Gunskirchen. In the end, a wonderful story of coming together to care for the alone.
It was a story of children that stuck to life and moved on. Every year, on May 5th, the day of their release from the camps, they celebrate life as a group.
Danny and Danny shared their stories about life in the Kovno Ghetto with the younger generation, military commanders, youth and friends, about getting off the train onto the ramp at Auschwitz and about Wolfke, the older brother that sorted the 130 children into groups of five and marched them military style while giving out orders in German. The ridiculous site of a group of children marching and singing German march songs determined their fate to live and miraculously they were saved from the gas chambers and sent to Lager 10. They told stories of Mengele’s selection and the systems they developed to survive them, about the “daily routine” in the camps, seasoned with black humor reserved just for them.
An insight for all of us present was that at one time, one circle closed and another opened for 39 children that survived the horrors. A circle of strength and hope, a journey of victory and construction. The memory of what was and is no longer led, against all odds, to the joy of the creation of a new world. Despite being left alone in the world, they were anxious to live and determined to come to Israel to put down roots and build families and a magnificent country.
We learned an important lesson about solidarity and togetherness, about the need to act to change and dare, for ourselves and for our children. No one will do this for us. Not to put our fate in the hands of anyone and take responsibility for our lives. Remember where we came from and always continue looking forward with optimism, as people and as a nation.
With this small memorial, there was a picture of victory on the lawn in Ramat Hasharon, so much light after the dark. The Jewish people live. We are overjoyed to have triumphed thanks to them.
Wexner Senior Leader Michal Shalem (2015), serves as a CEO of “Think Creative” a company that specializes in competitiveness of cities, regions and countries, providing innovation and strategic consulting in these fields. Michal served as the Jerusalem Municipality and the Mayor of Jerusalem’s Chief of Staff between the years 2008- January 2019. For the past 15 years, Michal has worked together with Mayor Nir Barkat to improve and advance the city of Jerusalem. They have established and implemented various initiatives throughout the city, including economic development projects such as Start-Up Jerusalem and the education and young-adult focused initiative, New Spirit. In 2015, she led and directed the committee for “Jerusalem 2020,” the five-year plan for competitiveness and economic growth in the city, under the leadership of Prof. Michael Porter of Harvard Business School and Prof. Richard Florida of the University of Toronto. Before entering the public sector, for a decade Michal was the CEO of a company engaged in digital imaging, international exhibitions and conferences. Michal holds a master’s degree, with distinction, in public policy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a graduate of the Wexner Senior Leadership Program. She serves on several boards for social and economic organizations in Jerusalem. She is married to Benny and they have three children Or, Shani and Daniel. Michal can be reached here.