Silverberg Shares his Heart of Gold
by Cate Murway
“My friend and fellow JWV Post 697 member, Allan Silverberg participated in the RIDE FOR THE LIVING. Imagine, 250 riders, and 750 supporters for Shabbat dinner!” Alan J. Vogenberg, BSPharm, RPh, FASCP
Ride For The Living [RFTL] is a four-day event that gives one a chance to immerse in Kraków’s Jewish past, present, and future. It was inspired by Robert Desmond, who rode his bicycle 1,350 miles from London to Auschwitz, visiting World War II sites of liberation along his journey.
RFTL provides a private guided tour of Auschwitz concentration camp, tours of Kraków, the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland, participation in the largest Shabbat dinner in post-war Kraków, and an inspiring one-day, 60-mile [97 km] bike ride from Auschwitz-Birkenau to the Jewish Community Center, JCC Kraków.
RFTL supports JCC Kraków’s core programs for all of its generations, from the preschoolers in the Early Childhood Center to the Holocaust survivors in their Senior Club.
Army veteran, E-5 Sgt. Allan Silverberg is the Committee Chairman of the Holocaust Remembrance Program and an active member and the former Junior Vice Commander of the Fegelson-Young Feinberg Post No. 697 Jewish War Veterans, named for three of its original members: Jules Fegelson, Reuben Young and Ray Feinberg.
The Jewish War Veterans of the USA, organized in 1896 by Jewish Veterans of the Civil War, is the oldest active national veterans’ service organization in America.
“I left on Tuesday the 25th of June for Kraków Poland and arrived on Wednesday in Stopnica, my parents’ hometown in Poland.”
Kraków is known for its well-preserved medieval core and Jewish quarter but when Allan arrived in Stopnica, “I found that the two Jewish cemeteries were both gone. The population was once 2,500, and now it is 1,400. The synagogues are also gone now.” The silence was deafening.
“When he arrived there from the airport, there was NOTHING! The Nazis had executed 90 % of the Jews they could find, and obliterated the cemetery. What the Nazis missed, the Russian and Polish Communists destroyed,” confirmed his friend, pharmacist Alan Vogenberg.
Imagine, they succeeded in their goal of obliterating any trace of Jewish life that had thrived in the town for centuries!
Allan Silverberg met Alan Vogenberg at the JWV and both were members of the Bristol Jewish Center.
Allan Silverberg participated in the 60 mile “Ride for the Living” [equivalent to riding from Philadelphia to Atlantic City] along with 250 cyclists to remember the Holocaust and celebrate and support the miraculous rebirth of Jewish life in Poland today.
Leadership is about making a difference; it is about one life influencing another.
“I brought my American flag and tied it on to the handlebars.
The shortest event is 14 miles and the youngest to participate was 8, and Bernard Offen, a 90 year young Holocaust survivor went the entire 60 miles. I raised over $3,600 for the Jewish community in Kraków. I will cycle away from the horrific past and toward a brighter future to show the world that despite our history, the Jewish people continue to strive and move forward.”
Donations are still being accepted. No donation is too small and no donation is too large!
The Holocaust has impacted Allan Silverberg's life since before he was born.
From birth to five years old Allan was born and raised in a Russian prison camp as a result of the Holocaust. He was born in that forced- labor camp in the Gruža region of Russia to Abraham and Tobey Silverberg who had fled their native Poland as the German Nazis marched east during World War II.
“My mother was only 4’10 and she was made to chop through ice on the railroad tracks.”
No one had middle names. “We were too poor to afford middle names”, chuckled Allan.
His father, Abraham Silverberg was lost during war.
He and his mother were sent to a displaced persons camp in Germany for about 5 years and then they were permitted to immigrate to the USA to start a new life.
They were sponsored by his late cousin, Nathan Silverberg and they traveled to Chicago, IL in a converted ship when he was 7 ½ years old.
Allan attended Roosevelt HS and then Roosevelt University that was founded in 1945, named in honor of both former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, where he earned his business degree. He went on to become an American citizen, entered the U.S. Army and served in the armed forces during the Vietnam War from 1965-1968. He was stationed in Germany.
“Yes, for 2 years, 11 months and 18 days.” Exactly. Thank you for serving, sir!
His late mother opted to remain in Chicago when Allan began traveling in 1971 with his employer, Hoshino U.S.A, formerly known as Elger, Inc., a Japanese importing company of musical instruments, as their operations manager.
He was first living in the King of Prussia area and then in Ardmore before relocating to Bensalem.
He met his future wife, Gail at a dance and they married and are Langhorne residents now. Gail is a social worker for the non-profit ‘KleinLife: Northeast Philadelphia’ that provides social, educational and cultural programs, and vital health, wellness and social services. Allan and Gail are the proud parents of two: their son, Avi and their daughter, Naomi.
He is now retired, but he's the first to admit he is not resting easy.
Allan has worked with the internationally acclaimed, volunteer-run Holocaust Remembrance Education program since 2013. Speaker, Daniel Goldsmith, survived the Holocaust as a somber-faced little child in Belgium through the help of Catholic institutions [he was given a false identification of “Willy Peters”] and he pretended to be an altar boy at a Catholic orphanage in Belgium. He retells his alive-feeling story full of emotion and texture about his family, his mother, his father and his sister, Lillian and his harrowing experiences of being loaded on a rail car in Belgium and some of what they went through during those terribly frightening years. He makes the story more understandable.
Mr. Goldsmith was also a witness featured in the 15-minute documentary "Auschwitz", the only surviving visual evidence of the process leading to this mass murder at the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, directed by James Moll and produced by USC Shoah Foundation founder, Steven Spielberg. It is narrated by Meryl Streep and describes the history of Auschwitz, where 1.1 million people were killed during the Holocaust.
The film premiered at Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on January 27, 2015, the commemoration ceremony for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camp.
Allan and his comrades travel to schools [public and private: 6th grade through University level; about one-third are Catholic schools], community groups, institutions of higher learning, over 55+ Retirement Communities, Libraries, Municipal Park Districts programs, houses of worship and other organizations throughout Bucks County, southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and northern Delaware and the Philadelphia region to enlighten the audiences on the horrors of the Holocaust. They recall their experiences and offer an audio/video slide presentation and warn of the dangers of hatred, bigotry and bullying.
“Over 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Before WWII there were 1.5 million Jewish children, only 100,000 survived! They were hounded like animals.”
Allan encourages the students "to become righteous human beings by speaking up when you see something wrong or someone unfairly treated."
In some places, nothing is taught about the Holocaust, the purposeful extermination of 6 million Jews and millions of others by the hands of Hitler and his Nazi regime; it is important to be aware.
New Jersey currently is one of only 10 states that require education about the Holocaust and other genocides for students in K-12.
”This is the last generation to hear those who were eyewitnesses,” he shared. “Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans are rapidly dwindling in numbers.”
This is the last generation that will be able to hear directly from those who survived the atrocities committed by Hitler and the Nazis. It has a much more powerful impact to hear from survivors and first hand witnesses than to visit a Holocaust museum, just see a movie or read it from a book.
During this past year alone, over 10,000 people have participated in this memorable experience.
A so very true quote by George Santayana: "Those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it."
The fascinating, interactive Holocaust Remembrance Education multimedia presentations are staged FREE all year round, bringing history alive. The purpose is to educate children and adults about what really happened in Europe during the Holocaust and to teach Diversity, Tolerance, and Anti-Bullying.
The underlying message is not to hate.
The Fegelson-Young Feinberg Post No. 697 sponsors these programs and an annual “Lessons Learned from the Holocaust” Essay Competition, open to students who attend this nationally and internationally acclaimed program. Students are asked to write about the Holocaust, what they learned and their response.
The winning students receive citations from Post 697, state representatives Frank Ferry and Tommy Tomlinson, and U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, along with an American Flag that has flown over the state capitol. Each also receives a cash award.
One award of $100.00 and a recognition certificate will be presented for the most outstanding essay.
As English political philosopher Edmund Burke [1729-1797] said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Hopefully the world has learned what it should NOT do.
“Do not be a bystander, but be an OUTstander, to make this a better world for everyone,” shared Allan.
This phrase remains connected with human responsibility for fixing what is wrong with the world.
Let’s make it a better world for everybody.
In like a year or two there won’t be any survivors left, so they’re trying to get out all their stories … before they all pass away.
To schedule a free 1 ½ to 2-hour age-appropriate Holocaust Remembrance Education Program, call 267.573.9697.
Holocaust Remembrance Education Program
Jewish War Veterans Post 697
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