Join us as we honor Gabriella Major with the Ernest W. Michel Memorial Award for her commitment to Holocaust Survivors. Despite living through the darkness of the Holocaust, Gabriella has brought light to countless people in need through her dedicated involvement with UJA and in the community.
In her honor, we’ll affirm the vital work of CIHS and its promise to care for the cherished Holocaust survivors remaining among us.
We are pleased to feature Violins of Hope, an organization that rescues and restores string instruments that survived the Holocaust. Virtuoso Niv Ashkenazi will be performing on one of these violins, celebrating the enduring tradition and culture of those who were silenced.
CIHS cares for the final generation of survivors. Today, nearly 36,000 Holocaust survivors live in the New York area, and approximately 40 percent of them live in poverty. CIHS aims to never forget or abandon, and helps vulnerable survivors receive the care they desperately need.
Born in Hungary, Gabriella Major is a child of the Holocaust. Her transport to Auschwitz was mistakenly diverted to a concentration camp in Austria, where she, her mother, and her grandmother faced disease, hunger, and extreme hardship. Tragically, her grandmother perished in the camp, but miraculously, Gabriella and her mother survived. Most of Gabriella’s family perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
Gabriella and her mother reunited with her father — who had survived another slave labor camp — in Hungary, where they lived under communist rule and again faced persecution for their Jewish beliefs. At the outbreak of the Hungarian Revolution, Gabriella prevailed on her family to flee the country: “If you want me to marry a Jewish boy and live a Jewish life,” she said, “we cannot stay here.”
They escaped to Austria and were eventually able to enter the United States, where they began a new life, Gabriella at the helm. She became a social worker, helping people with mental, physical, and emotional disabilities, and worked at a UJA-Federation network partner for more than 30 years before retiring as one of the organization’s vice presidents.
She married Dr. William Major, a psychiatrist and fellow survivor. Together, they raised four beautiful children on Manhattan's Upper East Side and became pillars of the Ramaz/KJ community. Gabriella has served on numerous UJA allocations committees, including the Community Initiative for Holocaust Survivors. She attended a UJA planning mission to Israel and participated in Witness Theater, a program that brings high school students and survivors together to retell the survivors’ stories.
Gabriella is grateful (especially after the Holocaust) to have a large family of children and grandchildren and now a great-grandchild, who bring her much joy and happiness.
Virtuoso violinist Niv Ashkenazi has captivated audiences with his heartfelt musicianship and emotional performances. Praised for his “extremely colourful interpretations, characterized by maturity and authority” (Pizzicato Magazine), he has made several Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center appearances, and has performed in Europe, the Middle East, and across North America. His conviction that the impact of music serves people beyond the concert stage motivates him to collaborate on projects that create a strong emotional bond with his audience.
In the 2019-2020 season, he was the first ever Artist in Residence at the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts. His debut album, Niv Ashkenazi: Violins of Hope, was released in March 2020 on Albany Records to international critical acclaim and was named one of the 10 best classical recordings of 2020 by the Chicago Tribune.
Niv holds both a B.M. and M.M. from The Juilliard School, where his teachers included Itzhak Perlman and Glenn Dicterow.
CIHS Leadership (in formation)
Eugene Major, Rochelle Major, Steven Major, Aliza Major, Debbie Schwartz, Dan Schwartz, Susan Spievack, Jay Spievack
Rabbi Lookstein, Audrey Lookstein
CIHS Committee Chairs
Staci Barber, Rikki Kaplan, Patti Kenner, Carol Levin, Lynne Wolitzer
CIHS Event Committee
Renee Barasch, Ruth Brause, Caryn Bukiet, Joel and Ulrika Citron, Robert de Rothschild, Camille Dunst, Sheri Feigen, Karen Friedman, Barbara and Oliver Goldstein, Bennett Golub, Alyssa Greenberg, Julia Gromis, Linda Jesselson, Barry Kaplan, Karen Kasner, Judy Kaufthal, Nancy Petschek Kohn, Jeane Kraines, Liz Lange, Sandy Lenger, Shelly Lipman, Rochelle Ludwig, Gabriella Major, Arlene Mark, Patti Mayrock, Amy Goldberg Michel, Lori Moore, Claire Moskowitz, Barry Moss, Suzanne Peck, Joseph and Karen Rafalowicz, Suzi Randolph, Denise Rosenberg, David Russekoff, Stacey Saiontz, Jodi Schwartz, Minna Seitelman, Jane Slotin, Molly Snyder, Judy Stern, Carol S. Weisman, Vivian Zelter, Gary Zimmerman
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