Survivors Haven’t Lost Their Rhythm

Jordan Goodman

Jordon Goodman leads a drum circle with members of the Holocaust Survivors Social Club, who danced, sang and played a variety of percussion instruments. (Photo by Marc Shapiro)

When Jordan Goodman told a room of about 30 seniors that he is a musician and they are musicians too, he got rounds of laughter.

But the group, the Holocaust Survivors Social Club, wound up proving him right. For an hour, Goodman led the men and women, some in their 90s, in a drum circle that inspired spontaneous singing and dancing.

“I never had a group of women bust out into a Jewish song,” said Goodman, a certified therapeutic drumming practitioner and educator. During one of the group rhythms, one woman started singing “Avinu Shalom Aleichem,” which quickly spread.

Goodman does his work through the company he founded, Beatwell, and leads communal and therapeutic drum circles for all demographics. This type of group was a first for him.

The Holocaust Survivors Social Club has been meeting about once a month for 10 years. Facilitator Lisa Shifren, coordinator of immigrant services at Jewish Community Services, said about 30 to 50 people come to the group’s activities, which include lunch, trips to the symphony, film screenings, musical performances and shows at the Gordon Center.

“I love them, they’re amazing people,” said Shifren. “I learn a lot from them.”

Most of them landed in Baltimore after World War II with help from families that sponsored them.

“They came where they could,” said Shifren.

Bernie Kiewe left Germany in 1939 after Kristallnacht for Shanghai, China. He came to the U.S. in 1948, first living in Atlantic City and then settling in Baltimore in 1960.

He said the highlight of the drumming was relaxing.

“We laughed, we danced, we sang, we relaxed,” said Kiewe.

Bluma Shapiro, 90, who survived five concentration camps, agreed with Kiewe.

“It was relaxing, brings me back to my childhood,” she said. “Usually we sit and listen. Today we participated.”

Shapiro said a German saved her and 500 other Jewish children. She speaks about the Holocaust throughout Baltimore and Pennsylvania.

“I don’t dwell on it, but I speak on it a lot … in hopes we can avoid a repetition,” she said.

Goodman said they “formed an incredible band” when the session was over, adding that the program was meant for this audience.

“They’re the last of that group. Once they pass on, that’s it,” he said. “Just the fact that I could create an opportunity where people felt safe enough and creative enough to express themselves in that way, that was special.”

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