As a survivor of the holocaust, Ernie Braunstein, 91 experienced a long journey of survival characterized by numerous near-death experiences and unspeakable terror. Ernie and his cousin Sara thought they would never see each other again after being separated after the Nazi’s entered their region.

In May 1945, Ernie and Sara found each other at a displaced persons camp – a seemingly impossible reunion of family who survived the unimaginable. “Sara is the salt of the earth to me,” said Ernie. “My love for her is boundless.”Now, the two live worlds apart- one in California and the other in Jerusalem._NOZ3940

This April, Wish of a Lifetime sent Ernie and his daughter Gilda to Israel to reunite with Sara one last time. The result? People all over the world were impacted by the story. Most closely impacted were the Wish of a Lifetime staff who spent considerable time speaking with Ernie and his family and had the incredible opportunity to hear him speak at the 2015 Gala. Here are some of the things we learned.

1. Distance in miles doesn’t determine closeness in heart

2. Family bonds are powerful and valuable beyond measure

3. A spirit can triumph against the worst of odds

4. Miracles can happen when you’re not looking

5. You can lose almost everything and still have a full and happy life

6. Sometimes it’s the people who have fought the hardest battles that end up giving the most to the world

7. Survival requires much more than food, water, and shelter. It requires tremendous inner strength

8. Survival requires a dedication to a cause greater than yourself

9. Even through the hardest times, strong relationships will never waver

10. Life can change in an instant, so make the most of your time with the people you love


“I’m not a hero, merely a survivor” {Ernie Braunstein}

Thanks to the Wish of a Lifetime Staff for contributions and insights. Thanks to Sara Leitch, Ernie Braunstein, and daughter Gilda for moving us and teaching us life lessons through your extraordinary stories. We are honored as an organization to have the privilege of meeting you and granting your wish of a lifetime.

If you’d like to read more about Ernie’s story, click here.