Martin met Carol, the love of his life, through mutual friends six decades ago.
With smiles and waves, honking horns and shouts of “Mazel Tov,” dozens of family members and friends, congregants from Young Israel of Southfield, and even total strangers helped Holocaust survivor Martin Lowenberg, 92, and his wife, Carol, 87, celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 32-car parade May 12 in front of the couple’s Southfield home was all a big surprise coordinated by Young Israel Rabbi Yechiel Morris and the Lowenberg’s oldest daughter, Cheryl Jerusalem. Family members also decorated the lawn with “Happy Anniversary” signs and pictures of the couple’s three children, 14 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. (Two more babies are due in June.)
“Thank you, thank you,” Mr. Lowenberg said as he stood in his driveway waving at the cars and grinning from ear to ear. Carol sat on a lawn chair beside him.
“Look how popular you are,” shouted one of the drivers passing by.
A municipal tree trimming truck and another city vehicle were even spotted among the procession. Car parades are a new tradition helping people to celebrate special occasions while maintaining a safe distance to avoid spreading the virus.
“It was just amazing, seeing them so happy and seeing how much their community means to them,” Jerusalem said. “It touched all of our hearts.”
Mr. Lowenberg was born in Germany and spent his teenage years in five different concentration camps. His parents and twin brothers were killed during the Holocaust; only he and his sister survived. He often talks to groups about his life experiences and the healing power of love.
“Quarantine is not [a] strange word to me,” he said. “After I was liberated from the concentration camp to Sweden, I was in quarantine for more than a month.”
Martin met Carol, the love of his life, through mutual friends six decades ago. They moved to Detroit in 1965 and raised their three daughters Cheryl, Anita and Sandra, all of whom are married with families of their own. Before COVID-19, Mr. Lowenberg attended Young Israel of Southfield three times a day.
“They’ve been very careful during the pandemic,” Cheryl explained. “We have frequent FaceTime calls, but they miss being with their community and with family.”
That’s one more reason the anniversary surprise was so special. May 12 was also Lag B’Omer, celebrated on the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer between Passover and Shavuot. For decades, the occasion has been marked with – you guessed it – festive parades.
“[The car parade] was really something,” Mr. Lowenberg said. “It was quite a surprise to my wife and myself. I was completely overcome. It was a wonderful happening.”
Elana Miodownik was among those riding by to help the Lowenberg’s celebrate.
“The ability to come together as a community to honor and celebrate these special people brought everyone so much joy,” she said. “Despite these difficult times, when we are in many ways disconnected, we were able to sit back, smile, and share in the sweetness of living life to the fullest.”