'Defiant Requiem' raises over $4.6 million for Holocaust survivors in need

Defiant Requiem chairs image
(From left) Bill Silverstein, Jewish Federation President Dr. Steven B. Nasatir, Karyn Silverstein, and Virginia and Norman Bobins. The Silversteins and Bobinses co-chaired the event. (Photo by Robert F. Kusel)

Chicago's triumphant premiere of "Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin" raised over $4.6 million to benefit the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago's Holocaust Community Services program.

The March 23 benefit performance at Symphony Center was entirely underwritten by two lead sponsors, the Crown Family and Pritzker Family Philanthropic Fund, allowing 100% of all other gifts and proceeds from ticket sales to be devoted to assisting Holocaust survivors in need.

The concert drama, which brings to life the true story of a choir of Jewish prisoners at Terezin who performed Verdi's Requiem Mass in an act of defiance against the Nazis, was chaired by Virginia and Norman Bobins and Karyn and Bill Silverstein.

Maestro Murry Sidlin created and conducted the multi-media performance, which featured the talents of the Chicago Philharmonic; the Chicago Vocal Artists Ensemble, conducted by Cheryl Frazes Hill; soloists Jennifer Check, Zach Borichevsky, Ann McMahon Quintero and Nathan Stark; and actors Tovah Feldshuh and Peter Riegert.

"We will always remember the story of how these brave Jews asserted their humanity in the face of the most inhumane circumstances imaginable, and created such beauty in the midst of such horror," said Norm Bobins. "We also will remember our community's great generosity surrounding this important effort to care for Chicago's survivor community."

Defiant Requiem performance

Currently, there are more than 6,000 Holocaust survivors in the Chicago metropolitan area, one in three of whom lives in poverty.

"With every passing year, there are fewer survivors in our midst, but the ones who remain need our help more than ever," said Virginia Bobins. "We are grateful for the opportunity to improve the quality of local Holocaust survivors' lives, now and in the years to come."

"Federation has long offered assistance to survivors in need, from refugee resettlement and family reunification to a wide range of human services," said Dr. Steven B. Nasatir, president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. "However, as the decades go by, survivors' needs have become more urgent and intense."

In 1999, Federation founded Holocaust Community Services, an inter-agency program to lend specialized assistance to Holocaust survivors in need. CJE SeniorLife administers Holocaust Community Services for Federation in partnership with Jewish Child & Family Services and HIAS Chicago. As the demand for services has skyrocketed, new partnerships have been added with Maot Chitim, EZRA Multi-Service Center and The ARK.

Federation has continually sought new, additional and ongoing support to meet the growing needs of the survivor community, and now mobilizes $4.1 million annually to care for local survivors, augmenting its own sizable annual allocation with funds from private foundations, funds from individual donors, and funds from the Claims Conference.

"Together, our community is not only honoring our history -- we are caring for those who lived it," said Karyn Silverstein. "We are committed to ensuring that the Holocaust survivors in our midst spend their later years in comfort and dignity."

"We are deeply thankful to the many hundreds of 'Defiant Requiem' sponsors and supporters who so graciously stepped forward with their tzedakah," said Bill Silverstein. "As you may know, this Hebrew word for charitable giving actually means righteousness.

"Surely there is no more righteous cause than ensuring that Holocaust survivors don't go to bed hungry."

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