Over 160 people attended the "One People, One Community" Israel Event last night, starting with a ceremony honoring and remembering Israel’s fallen soldiers and terror victims for Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day). The commemoration transitioned into celebration for Yom Haatzmaut (Israel Independence Day). Dana and Maya, Heart of NJ teen ambassadors from the Jewish Agency, led a very emotional ceremony, bringing audience members to tears, and later, bringing everyone to their feet with modern Israeli songs.
Following a siren marking the start of the remembrance ceremony, Rabbi Robert Pilavin of Congregation Sons of Israel set the tone with a quote from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “On Yom HaZikaron, as we remember those who have fallen or been killed in defense of the State of Israel, we say to the souls of those lost: We will never forget you. We will never cease to mourn you. We will never let you down.”
The ceremony included prayers, readings, and songs customary to Israel on this somber day. The program also brought to the podium several members of Federation staff, starting with Dana and Maya, heart of NJ Israeli teen ambassadors. These young volunteers brought the Israeli perspective to the ceremony. “The transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day is not a simple one," said Dana. “You are sad for a full 24 hours and not long after you go out with a smile on your face, to rejoice … I'm not sure whether I agree with this transition, but I know that it is meant to remind us these celebrations are because of them (the soldiers).”
“My family is a bereaved family” said Maya. “That is a family that lost a member in the military. I have a grandfather who I have never met, who was killed in the IDF. For me, Memorial Day takes on a very personal meaning. It relates to a personal story, close to my heart. This year Memorial Day is a bit different, especially distant. When in Israel, one can feel a special feeling during this day. The air is thick and almost brings with it tears. But here, everything is as usual. People are happy, go on with their life, smiling and laughing.” She added, “Yes I feel sad inside. I listen to a sad song, and read a story about a fallen soldier to remember the day and its significance, that this not just another day on the calendar.”
Dan Rozett, Manager, Community & Israel Engagement, and Joel Krinsky, board member of Jewish Federation, spoke about why it is important for the community to recognize this day.
“After living in Israel for 20 years including military service,” said Dan, "working at Federation is another way to serve the Jewish people by working with community partners to strengthen ties to Israel. A solid connection to Israel means preservation of the Jewish future, a priority for me personally, and for the organization I proudly work for.”
Joel Krinsky led the audience into transition from mourning to celebration, speaking about how, although the price is extremely high, we have a thriving Jewish State that has overcome all odds, giving us reason to celebrate. “Israel is a leader in hi-tech, medicine, agriculture, and more. We should never lose sight that Israel shares the benefits that go out into the world, especially to those countries which are economically challenged because we have always believed in tikkun olam – to save the world. We have a lot to be proud of and a lot to celebrate. ”
The event was hosted and co-sponsored by Congregation Sons of Israel, together with Jewish Federation and Na’ale Elite Academy. Support was also provided by a generous donor from the community who wished to remain anonymous. The event included participants and clergy from community institutions such as East Brunswick Jewish Center, Freehold Jewish Center, Monmouth Reform Temple, and Yashar L'Chayal as well as several members of the community.