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Bergen County Celebrates Israel @75

The Teaneck and greater Bergen County community came out in droves to show their love for Israel. An evening of song, inspiration and a special performance with drones was held at the Teaneck Rodda Center and the Votee Park Sportsplex to mark Israel’s 75th birthday on Tuesday evening, April 25, the eve of Yom Ha’atzmaut, the fifth of Iyar.

The crowd of over 800 assembled in the gymnasium and an adjacent area of the Rodda Center in kumzitz style, on bleachers, chairs and the floor. Uri Davidi, an Israeli singing star, launched into uplifting inspirational songs accompanied by Yehuda Vogel on guitar. The audience joined enthusiastically in songs, including “L’maan Achai,” “Vehi She’amda,” “Shir HaMaalot,” “Acheinu” and “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav,” and set the mood of unity and devotion.

To mark the closing hours of Yom Hazikaron, the audience heard from the family of fallen soldier Sergeant Maor Jan, HY”D. Oriyah Jan, 14, a sister born after his death, spoke of her feelings of connection to him. His mother, Evelyn Jan, spoke of her inspiration to paint in her son’s memory 10 years after his martyrdom. Her paintings were displayed in the corridor of the Rodda Center and all proceeds from their sale were set to support chesed projects in Nahariya where Maor attended Hesder Yeshiva Nahar Deiah. (See full story in The Jewish Link, April 20, p. 113)

Greetings were offered by Dan Shlufman, president of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey (JFNNJ), which was involved in the planning of the celebratory evening. Shlufman spoke of our need to stand tall as Jews, not allow ourselves to be intimidated and, even in the face of terror, to keep our minds, memories and hearts alive. He spoke of the JFNNJ’s efforts in providing security for our synagogues and agencies.

Next to speak was Rabbi Ari Abramowitz, former IDF soldier, and founder of Nevut, an organization based in Monsey, which helps former lone soldiers re-acclimate to their lives in the US. He assured the crowd that unified gatherings such as these are the true tribute to soldiers like Passaic lone soldier Shlomo, who gave his life “al kiddush Hashem.”

Rabbi Chaim Strauchler, mara d’asra of Congregation Rinat Yisrael, who was the moving force behind this unprecedented evening, spoke of our dedicating this gathering to the memories of the tragic victims of recent terror, Lucy Dee, HY”D, and her daughters Maya, HY”D and Rina, HY”D. In the words of Rabbi Leo Dee, “It is the fire within the souls of each of us that keeps in the warmth. The thousands of candles lit from other candles during the shiva for my loved ones was the greatest tribute to their memories. Let us remember the kedoshim and continue their missions with all of our souls.”

The audience rose to their feet to a recording of the traditional Yom HaZikaron siren sounded in Israel to mark the day. They remained standing for the melodic chanting by Chazan Chaim Kiss of the “Kel Maleh” followed by a moving rendition of the Tefila L’Chayale Tzva Hagana L’Yisrael.

It was estimated that over 2,000 participants, from families with young children to seniors and every age in between, filled the stadium seats and the grassy field of the Votee Sportsplex for the outdoor portion of the evening. A huge screen presented a history of our people narrated by the revered Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, zt”l. An inspirational video prepared by Rabbi Strauchler featured 10 local rabbanim offering words of chizuk to our community. Rabbi Strauchler joined Rabbis Michael Taubes, Larry Rothwachs, Daniel Fridman, Andrew Markowitz, Beni Krohn, Nati Helfgot, Shalom Baum, Zev Goldberg, Kenny Schiowitz and Elliot Schreier in conveying a crucial message: that the Teaneck/Bergen County communities are stakeholders in Medinat Yisrael. Israel is us. We are part of the story that began with the journey of Avraham Avinu. Israel is the center of our history and if we want to maintain that connection to our history, we must help promote the ongoing and unique mission of our beloved Israel.

In a crescendo of music and in a display of blazing multi-colored lights, the drone show began. Intricate colorful formations created images including 1948, 75, the iconic Menorah, a dove, a map of Israel, the flag of Israel and the American and Israeli flags intertwined. The Magen David/75 logo concluded the phenomenal sky extravaganza.

Rabbi Strauchler, who began planning this first-of-its-kind “Commemoration and Celebration” one year ago, was thanked. Working together with his committee including Chaim Kiss, Karen Orgen, Yehuda Kohn, Batsheva Friedman, Ephraim Mandel and Golan Elias, a spectacular evening was planned and executed. The celebration of Medinat Yisrael was brought to a new and higher level which we hope will be maintained for many years to come.

Rabbi Strauchler shared, “I am grateful to Hashem for the success of the evening. So many details that are beyond our control make up our lives. It is a tremendous bracha when things fall so beautifully into place. I owe much to the committee members, township officials, event sponsors and colleagues who contributed to the evening’s success. What made the evening so meaningful to me was to see the eyes of children who were so excited about Yom Ha’atzmaut and their Zionism. The emotions that were expressed through the intense dancing at the conclusion of the program spoke to a real need. These have been difficult months for us. We needed Yom Ha’atzmaut.”

The Teaneck Police and Fire Departments were also thanked for keeping everyone safe, as well as TVAC (Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps), which was on scene during the entire event.

By Pearl Markovitz

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