“I arrived at Café Europa the first day it opened. And for the past 15 years I’ve been coming to every activity,” says Yehudit Shabtai from the coastal city of Herzliya just north of Tel Aviv. At 87 years young, she makes no excuses and travels to Ramat Hasharon every week to meet her friends at the café.

“When I arrive at the meeting I mingle from table to table, saying shalom to everyone. And as soon as the music begins, I immediately start dancing—and I don’t sit down until the music stops!” I encourage my friends who are sitting to dance, and it gives me joy.”

Café Europa runs social clubs for Holocaust survivors, offering various activities such as lectures, trips, sports, art, games, and more.

This is not the first time Yehudit encountered the Joint. She grew up in Bukovina, Romania during World War II.

“We were a very poor family,” she recounts. “My father died when we were little and my three brothers and I had to go to work at a very young age. We barely had food or even shoes. I remember tying rags on my feet so I could walk on the frozen snow. I also recall the packages the Joint sent to our neighborhood filled with things we needed like clothes, shoes, and blankets. It felt like someone knew we were in distress and was trying to help us.”

“Today, here in Israel, I remember those days and feel great pride,” Yehudit says. “Despite everything I went through, I’m still strong and standing on my own two feet. I’m alive, I’m laughing, I’m meeting friends, I’m going out. At Café Europa, I found the best way to express this happiness: just dance and rejoice!”