Whippany, N.J. (PRWEB) May 14, 2014
“Courage and Conviction” was the theme for the City of Newark’s 27th Annual Holocaust Remembrance event, and no one embodied that more than keynote speaker, Theodore “Teddy” Halpern. The resident of the Lester Senior Housing Community in Whippany delivered remarks to approximately 1000 attendees including local dignitaries, Newark students, representatives of the Jewish community, and business leaders. Halpern was invited to give the keynote address by Barbara Wind of the Holocaust Council of Greater MetroWest; the Lester Senior Housing Community is owned and managed by the Jewish Community Housing Corporation of Metropolitan New Jersey (JCHC), an agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
Halpern, who speaks to many school groups about the Holocaust, recounted his personal experiences as a young boy and teenager during World War II. At the conclusion of his speech, he was presented with a proclamation from Newark Mayor Luis Quintana marking May 6, 2014 as “Theodore Halpern Day.”
“It’s important for the next generation to realize that prejudice and bigotry should not go on; that’s what I try to emphasize,” said Halpern in reference to the hundreds of students who attended the event. “I hope what I said penetrated.”
Halpern, who moved to the Lester Senior Housing Community in 2007, shared his poignant life story as a baby born in Vienna, Austria with several birth defects (a cleft palate and deformed hands and feet) through his escape and eventual emigration to America.
His early years were spent in hospitals to address his physical needs. His parents prepared to emigrate to the United States after Germany invaded Austria and Kristallnacht occurred. However, due to Halpern’s handicaps, the youngster was refused admission into the U.S.; he was left in a grandmother’s care so his parents could come to New York to lay the groundwork for a new life. So began a period of wartime upheaval through Western Europe.
As the situation worsened in Austria, Halpern and his grandmother fled to Antwerp, Belgium; they left one year later for France after the Nazis invaded Belgium. Separated from his grandmother during a bombing raid, Halpern was picked up by an ambulance crew who brought him to an insane asylum for shelter; he was moved to a Catholic orphanage for two years but left with another boy to avoid being forcibly converted.
The young teens joined the French Resistance movement; Halpern became a courier and took advantage of his special orthopedic shoes to hide messages he delivered for the fighters.
Halpern reached the U.S. after the war and reunited with his parents. He completed school, attended college, and married and raised a son who now lives close by in Randolph with his family, including Halpern’s three grandchildren.
“Teddy is a wonderful volunteer here at Lester,” said Cheryl Fisch, the senior community’s activities director. “You can always count on him to volunteer for any activity.” Halpern’s active life at Lester is indeed impressive: he calls all the bingo games, helps prepare the monthly newsletters and calendars for mailing, sings in the choral group, works in the community’s general store, participates in the Lester congregation, and arranges a monthly dinner at local restaurants for residents, complete with transportation. He also finds time to indulge in his favorite hobby, knitting.
“This ceremony was a fitting tribute, as people like Teddy Halpern are true heroes,” said Harold Colton-Max, CEO of the Jewish Community Housing Corporation. “They emerged from the horrors of the Holocaust and have continued to inspire us with their words and their deeds. We at the JCHC are grateful to be able to have an opportunity to repay our debt to them in some small way.”
The Lester Senior Housing Community is located at 903-905 Route 10 West on the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Federation Campus in Whippany. The community offers seniors a range of housing options and upscale amenities in a traditionally Jewish setting. For more information, visit http://www.jchcorp.org or call (973) 929-2725.
About the Jewish Community Housing Corporation of Metropolitan New Jersey
Founded in 1983, the Jewish Community Housing Corporation of Metropolitan New Jersey (JCHC) developed and manages more than 470 apartments in four buildings for older adults in Morris and Essex counties in northern New Jersey. The non-profit organization offers seniors a range of options in terms of services, amenities, location, and cost, all within a traditional Jewish environment. The JCHC provides housing, programs, and services for the independent elderly as well as those who need assisted living. For more information, go to http://www.jchcorp.org.