Imagine Anne Frank At JSL

By: Jo Rosen

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On June 12, several hundred people gathered at a church in Frankfurt, Germany, the city of Anne Frank’s birth, to commemorate the famous teenage diarist’s 90th birthday. Like so many around the world, we are inspired by Anne’s, “Diary of a Young Girl”, chronicling her two-year stay at a secret annex in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam with her family and several other Jews. The family was caught in 1944 and sent to death camps. Only Anne’s father, Otto, survived. He shared her diary, intuitively knowing it could bring hope to so many. It has been printed in 70 languages with over 30 million copies sold. Her story belongs to survivors of the Shoah everywhere.  

Imagine if Anne had survived her stay at Bergen-Belsen and lived a full life, documenting her world after ‘the diary’ with book after book about the war. Imagine her as a political activist and anti-war spokesperson.  She is choosing now to spend her final years with us at Jewish Senior Life. Her goal has always been to help others. I think of her participating in our Hechtman writing classes, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.  I keep my ideals, because, in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”  Anne Frank, l944                                   

Today in West Bloomfield, Michigan, Anne rises from her bed and goes to the window of her living room at the Norma Jean & Edward Meer apartments. She makes herself a cup of tea and nibbles on a muffin, left over from last night’s abundant meal, then dresses carefully anticipating a beautiful day, her 90th birthday. After listening to the TV news and finding none of it tolerable, she walks slowly with an elegant cane, grasping the carved kitten handle she herself created in woodworking class. Now, her favorite days are spent with new friends at Meer, debating current events, painting portraits of her loved ones, and even playing Canasta. She is grateful for the delicious kosher food provided and she declines offers for fancy meals out, preferring instead to sit with girlfriends at her regular table. She walks to the lobby at Meer, hoping for a glimpse of her children who will surely visit on Shabbat. Anne is active in and is grateful to the Program for Holocaust Survivors and their Families which was started in 1993 by psychologist Dr. Charles Silow, a son of Survivors, to provide psychosocial and emotional supports to aging Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their families. Because of the tragedies they suffered, Survivors like Anne, typically struggle with anxiety and depression more profoundly than those in the general population. The Program for Holocaust Survivors and Families is designed to address the unique needs of aging Survivors using traditional and innovative programming. Each interaction is designed to create a safe space where survivors can relax, share fears and anxieties, provide encouragement to one another, and when requested, receive counseling by a highly skilled psychotherapist.                                     

Anne is a friend and confidante to Dr. Silow.  She is a frequent speaker during meetings, offering hope and humor to those who may need it. She attends lectures related to the Holocaust and attends the annual dinner at the Holocaust Memorial Center yearly. Her message is one of gratitude for all that she has, a deep appreciation for life and laughter… for the freedom to live with her family nearby and for her ability to have traveled to the State of Israel many times. Her sense of humor is contagious. Her strength comes from seeing her children and grandchildren living their best lives as Jews in our community. She is an inspiration to us all.  She and her children and grandchildren attend Café Europa monthly in Oak Park and dance the hora with other grateful survivors. Our community continues to show respect and care for Anne and her family and for all our aging Survivors through these unique and vital programs, and they are all free of charge.  I smile thinking what Anne would have been like at 90. I know she would have enjoyed the beautiful community JSL provides to our many survivors each day. Visit us today to experience how we live our best Jewish senior life.

LIVING YOUR BEST Jewish Senior Life

Jewish Senior Life is far more than a place to live. It’s 6 beautiful residences where older adults can embrace life and community in a secure and supportive environment.