On May 7, the Riverdale Jewish Community Partnership (RJCP), hosted the annual community Yom Hazikaron event. The event took place at SAR High School, with almost 300 in attendance. Rabbi Joseph Robinson, director of community engagement for the Riverdale Y welcomed the community, “We appreciate your joining us tonight for this community effort in observance of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, for fallen soldiers and victims of terror. This event is the result of a collaboration of almost every Jewish communal institution in Riverdale.” Robinson added an additional thank you to SAR for hosting once again this year. “May our collaboration in this sacred house of learning be a monument to those we remember tonight.” Israel-style sirens then blasted for a moment of silence.
RJC Rabbi Yitzi Genack introduced Sarah Weiss Ma’udi, legal adviser for the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations. Ma’udi began her remarks, “There is something so very Israeli about the juxtaposition of Yom Hazikaron, one of the saddest days on our calendar, with Yom Ha’atzmaut, one of our happiest. That inherent contradiction very much embodies Israel, a land of so many contradictions, a land with so much joy and creativity and warmth and innovation, but also with a great deal of sadness and sorrow and sacrifice.”
Ma’udi continued, “Just last week I felt that inherent contradiction very strongly; In the morning, I attended a conference on regional economic ties in the Eastern Mediterranean and speaker after speaker got up to praise Israel, the innovation nation, for its entrepreneurship and leadership in the world of high-tech and cyber. Then in the afternoon, I went back to my work at the United Nations, defending Israel from unceasing criticism and bias, while trying to get my colleagues to grasp the unrelenting existential threats that Israel faces day-in and day-out, on all of our borders, from north to south.”
Further she added, “Seeing pictures this past weekend of throngs of beachgoers and kids on fields playing soccer suddenly needing to run for shelter as Israel was pelted with over 600 rocket attacks, which took the precious lives of four Israelis, underlines that inherent contradiction.” Ma’udi stated, “Yom Hazikaron brings us back every year to remind us that all of this is not a given. This day reminds us what a great sacrifice each and every Israeli, each and every Israeli family, has paid and pays for that incredible modern miracle that is the State of Israel. And as we watch anti-Semitism grow on the right and on the left worldwide, we realize just how important it is that the Jewish people have a state of their own and how we must pay tribute to the men and women who have paid with their lives for this incredible zechut, this incredible privilege.”
Rabbi Binyamin Krauss then introduced a SAR student presentation entitled ‘The Voice That Remains.’ The students highlighted poems and messages that fallen soldiers left behind. Following the SAR performance there was a candle-lighting ceremony, Yizkor and El Maleh Rachamim led by local rabbinic and communal leaders. Rabbi Aaron Frank introduced the fifth graders at Kinneret Day School, singing “A Million Stars” and “What Should I Bless.”
“It is important for our students to understand that we cannot celebrate the gift of Medinat Yisrael on Yom Ha’atzmaut if we don’t understand the deep sacrifices that were made to get us there,” explained Krauss. “Those sacrifices touched especially close to home this year with the murder of Ari Fuld, H»YD , an SAR alumnus, and the son of former SAR principal, Rabbi Yonah Fuld.”
Frank added, “Having all of us come together for Yom Hazikaron allows us to mourn as a community. It also presents a strong proud message of the unity of Am Yisrael. While the loss of any human being is a loss to the world, the loss of anyone who died for Medinat Yisrael is especially significant as it is a loss to all of us as the family of the Jewish people.”
The next evening, May 8, led by the shlichot from Bnei Akiva, the Young Israel of New Rochelle held its Yom Hazikaron commemoration. The youth of the community read poetry and sang songs remembering Israel’s fallen soldiers. In addition, there was a video message from Israeli soldiers thanking the New Rochelle community for all their support. As the Hebrew date came to an end, the community was led in a special havdalah service ending Yom Hazikaron and beginning Yom Ha’atzmaut. Following Maariv, the community held a musical Hallel service. The event concluded with Israel-themed snacks and dancing.
By Judy Berger