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Gloria Gaynor Honors True Survivor

The delightful and upbeat Annie Bleiberg, who is 93 years young, considers herself a very lucky person.

Bleiberg, a Woodbury resident, was a slave at Auschwitz during the Holocaust and her story of survival is chronicled in We Will Survive, a new book by Grammy award-winning artist Gloria Gaynor, known for her famous song “I Will Survive.”

On Nov. 19, The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County held its Annual Tribute dinner at the Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation, with more than 400 people in attendance including Bleiberg and Gaynor.

Bleiberg, who talked about being invited by Gaynor to the Town of Oyster Bay Concert this past summer, brought the house down with her hilarious introduction.  

“There were thousands of people there and the applause was horrendous!” she said as the audience roared with laughter. “Gloria also surprised me and sang “Happy Birthday” to me over the telephone. How lucky can you get?”

Gaynor thanked Bleiberg and smiling said, “Annie is amazing in so many ways. She is one of those people I get to meet every once in a while but she stands at the top of the list of all the wonderful survivors I met throughout my career.

"Every now and then you meet someone who is going through what seems to be insurmountable odds yet they determine that they will make it through because for them neither defeat nor surrender is an option.”

In a profound speech before she sang her famous song, Gaynor discussed meeting Annie for the first time at the museum.

“It was not until I met Annie and heard her story up close and personal that I began to really understand the atrocities that were perpetrated,” said Gaynor. “In l978 when I recorded, ‘I Will Survive,’ many people took that song as that mantra, but what they were really saying was that ‘I am going to thrive.’

"If you don’t care about other people you can’t expect them to care about you. Evil does not just devour its enemies it destroys its allies as well.”

Gaynor discussed apartheid, the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and how it went on far too long, but the people who survived did not do so without the help and care of others.

“Promote being tolerant and be vocal about your adversity to intolerance and hatred,” she continued. “We need to recognize that any of these things can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone, so we need to be aware and be vocal against hatred. All of us are vulnerable—if we do nothing, none of us will survive.”

Guest speaker Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger, a German physician whose father was a highly decorated Nazi officer, also spoke at the event.  

“For a long time I questioned my father’s background trying to find answers that were not provided to me,” he said. “I endeavored into my own journey to find out why Germans would kill Jews. No one would explain that to me.”   

Wollschlaeger converted to Judaism, emigrated to Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces. As an author and lecturer he has spoken all over the world about his life’s journey and the lessons of the holocaust.

“Holocaust museums are not only historic places where we talk about the past and preserve the memories of the past but they remind us what hatred can do to us as people—it is corrosive, it is acid on the soul,” he continued. “If we are not reminded and learn from the dynamics of hate, learning how hate evolves we never will learn to prevent it from happening again. The Holocaust was just one horrific example of what hate can do.”

News

Eight students from Jericho High School, the largest number of students from any school on Long Island this year, are among the 300 semifinalists picked from 1,800 entrants nationally and overseas in the annual Intel Science Talent Search.

Brookville’s Green Vale School students were featured in the September/October 2013 issue of Sport Rocketry, the official journal of the National Association of Rocketry.

The seventh-grade students competed nationally at the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) last May in Virginia and were the youngest rocket scientists competing. They were also the only team from Long Island that qualified to enter the competition and one of only two teams from New York State.


Sports

The Syosset Braves 11-year-old football team recently won the Superbowl Championship Game against the Rosedale Jets with a final score of 13 to 0.

The Farrell & Schmidt Ho Ho Ho 5-Kilometer Run started and finished at the John F. Kennedy Middle School in Bethpage on Dec. 21. The top local finisher was Tim Mahony of Syosset, who scored in 11th place overall and third in the 15 to 19 age group.

Other locals winning awards in this year’s Ho Ho Ho Run were Gina Ferraro of Syosset (2nd woman, 35-39 age group), Patty Santella of Syosset (3rd woman, 45-49 age group), Kim Solomine of Syosset (2nd woman, 55-59 age group).


Calendar

Jericho Wheelchair Basketball

January 17

Reality Check on America’s Economy, Health Care & Budget

January 17

Open Forum: Now What Do I Say?

January 21



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