How One Young Holocaust Victim's Memory Forged a Community Across America
Ariella Livstone is one of those teenage girls who is wise beyond her years. “When I hear the word Holocaust, I think of WWII, concentration camps, six million Jewish victims, and I start to cry.” Following her older brother Yoni’s lead, Ariella sought out a way to honor a Jewish victim of the Holocaust during her Bat Mitzvah through the Remember a Child project. A subsequent series of uncanny coincidences drew an eruv of living memory around the soul of one little girl who perished in the Shoah.
The Remember a Child project began 30 years ago when a group of survivors from the Washington, D.C., area sought to honor the children who perished in the Holocaust. What began as a project to honor their own pre-Bar/Bat Mitzvah relatives who had been annihilated, grew into a decades-long mission to honor every Jewish youth who perished. Since so little information is often available about these children, recipients who are matched traditionally wrap a tallit around an empty chair that sits on the bema in their honor and their names are incorporated during the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service.
Originally Ariella requested a child from Schedrin, the home of her great-grandfather Lloyd Livstone. When no child from Schedrin could be located, Ariella wound up being paired with Lucie Nicole Lipstein from Antwerp, Belgium. Ariella’s mother, Danna, explained that the coordinator at Remember a Child reasoned that “Livstone (an Americanized surname) and Lipstein sounded relatively alike, and since very few children from Belgium and Holland were ever requested, they thought it would be a special mitzvah.”
The mitzvah was special, indeed, as Ariella was only about to find out. Along with a photograph of Lucie, Ariella was given the contact information of the Leighton family who signed Lucie and her brother, Andre Robert, into Remember a Child. Along with an invitation to her Bat Mitzvah, Ariella sent a letter to the family patriarch Ed, now living in Arizona, explaining that she would be “sharing” her Bat Mitzvah with Lucie and requesting more information about her.
Upon receiving her letter, Ed Leighton (formerly Lipstein) was filled with joy:
When I received Ariella Livstone's Bat Mitzvah invitation and lovely note, identifying "Remember a Child," and advising she would be honoring the memory of Lucie Nicole, I was so touched that such a program existed and that, after all these years, another young lady would figuratively and momentarily not only bring that little girl back to life in front of a Hebrew congregation, but Lucie would continue to have soulful continuation of life within Ariella's memory.
A 45-minute phone call to the Livstones ensued during which Ed shared the Lipstein clan’s heartbreaking story. Years before Nazi occupation, Ed’s father happened to take a job in New York’s diamond district. His tenure at the position afforded him the ability to obtain American citizenship, something he ironically was able to take advantage of years later after returning to Belgium, starting his family and confronting Nazi rule. Lucie, her brother and her parents, unable to escape, all perished at Auschwitz. Lucie was less than 10 years old.