Child’s wish to do good launches a new foundation.
Eight-year-old Noah Ostheimer is a dreamer. The fourth-grader from White Lake dreams of one day drilling for oil and piloting his own plane. He also has big dreams of helping others. “I had this wish. I wanted to start a charity to help others, but I didn’t know how to do it,” he said.
Enter Rabbi Daniel Syme of Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township, an “angel” who was touched by Noah’s vision and set out to make it happen, creating the Angels and Dreamers Foundation. Noah is “chairman of the board.”
“I’ve long believed that children ages 7 to 11 have highly developed impulses to heal the world,” Rabbi Syme said. “They know what needs to be done, but they don’t have the resources to do it. When Noah came to me wanting to start his own charity, I knew I wanted to act as an adviser, and my job would be to put together a system of angels who would help children realize their dreams.”
At temple, Noah and his family, parents Jennifer and Camilo and sister Sarah, 6, would sit behind this nice lady who always wore a hat. Her name was Paula Marks Bolton, well-known in the community as a Holocaust survivor who shares her story and message at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills.
Paula, who lives in West Bloomfield, has been a member of Temple Beth El for more than 30 years; the Ostheimers about two. The family always sat behind her at shul, and when she was absent because of a problem with her knee, Noah missed her.
“I met Miss Paula and knew she had survived the Holocaust and that her family had died. I wanted to know how she survived,” Noah said.
Noah wrote a letter to Rabbi Syme, explaining his wish to take Miss Paula out for a special meal.
“She’s very special … I want to show her how much I care about her,” Noah wrote. “I want to learn more about her. I also want to tell her a little about me.”
Rabbi Syme shared Noah’s letter with the Jewish News and other “angels” in the community who set out to make his wish come true.
Angels Among Us
Rabbi Syme was able to rally those in the community to make Paula’s day special.
Zack Sklar, owner of Cutting Edge Cuisine and restaurants MEX and Social Kitchen & Bar, offered to host Noah and Paula for a special lunch.
“It’s such a great mitzvah to be a part of,” said Sklar, who upon greeting Paula learned that she was longtime friends with his grandmother Fanny Zuckerman of West Bloomfield, also a Holocaust survivor from Poland.
A limo from angel 24/7 Limo and Ground Transportation picked Paula up at her door and brought her to MEX on Maple and Telegraph in Bloomfield Township, where Noah and his family were waiting to greet her with flowers.
A Friendship Is Born
Paula hugged Noah, “I’m so honored and overwhelmed,” she said. “This is the generation that we must teach to be kind to each other to make a better world.”
Noah, a young gentleman, pulled out the chair for Paula, and they got to know each other better over lunch. “How did you survive the Holocaust?” asked Noah, who seems wise beyond his years.
“I don’t know why I survived and my family did not,” said Paula, whose family perished in the Shoah when she was only 13. Paula survived a Nazi ghetto in Poland and four Nazi concentration camps before she was liberated, sick and weak from Bergen-Belsen in 1945. Sharing the story of her survival at HMC is “what keeps her going,” she said.
“Soon there will be no survivors left,” she said. “We must leave a legacy. When I am in front of an audience, the people inspire me. I have a box of letters from people who say I have transformed their lives, and that they will always treat people with love and justice.”
Noah asked Paula if he could come hear her speak, and she said yes, even though usually she talks to young people who are around 13. “Noah seems very mature,” she said. “He can absorb my story and teach other people that we must love and respect each other to make a better world. That we must never allow it to happen again.”
“To honor my mother,” said Paula, who has about 20 hats and never leaves home without one. “She always wore one, and now so do I.”
Noah asked Paula about her family. Paula, twice widowed, has two daughters, a granddaughter and two great-grandchildren. She told Noah about meeting her husband in a displaced person’s camp.
They also talked about the war in Israel and the need to pray for peace, pets, their favorite colors and the things they liked to do for fun. (Noah likes climbing trees and riding bikes; Paula likes reading and keeping up on the news).
“Would you like to be a part of my family?” Noah asked.
“I would love to be,” Paula said, embracing Noah and his sister Sarah.
“What a remarkable young man Noah is,” said Paula after the lunch. “I’m so grateful that he represents our next generation.”
By Jackie Headapohl, Managing Editor, Photos by Jerry Zolynsky
If you are a Jewish child between the ages of 7-11 who has a dream to perform a mitzvah but don’t know how to do it, or are a member of the community or business owner who would like to be on call as an angel to make those dreams come true, send a letter to:
Angels and Dreamers
c/o the Jewish News
29200 Northwestern Highway, Suite 110
Southfield, MI 48034.
Story updated Sept. 4, 2014, to clarify that the ghetto and concentration camps Paula survived were created and run by Nazis, not Poles.