On Tuesday, May 3, the Riverdale community gathered at the Riverdale Y for a Yom Hazikaron tekes. The event was a collaboration between the Riverdale Y and the Riverdale Jewish Community.
Naama Amiel Berkman, Riverdale Y Israeli shlicha, opened the event. “On the eve of Yom Hazikaron, our Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, we come together, as one, to pay our respects by remembering those who paid the ultimate price to serve their country.” Berkman continued, “As an Israeli who served in the army as an officer, the mother of a veteran, and the wife of a combat soldier, Yom Hazikaron has always been a central part of my identity. It is a day that reminds us that the country wasn’t given to us on a silver platter. It reminds us of those who fought so that the Jewish state will be a dream coming true.” Berkman added, “We came here seven months ago. It’s heartwarming to see that this day has importance to both those who grew up in Israel, and to Jews around the world. We’re all gathered here together to remember lives that were cut short; remember the values, courage and spirit they lived by; our sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters who will never come back and have left us with a mission to continue the struggle for a free nation in our land.” Berkman noted, “We’re obligated to preserve their memory. It is their memory, their stories and their life that we will share with generations to come.”
The Israeli flag was then lowered to half-staff and sirens wailed for a moment of silence.
Itay Milner, Israel’s consul for media affairs in New York, began, “It’s my first ceremony here in New York. I arrived here a year ago. Looking around, I see many kids, obviously born here and maybe have never been to Israel. They come here with their parents to commemorate Israeli soldiers that died in the land.” Milner continued, “I think it’s amazing that our people know how to embrace the heroes that gave their life to protect the Jewish State of Israel.” Milner recalled, “I remember when I was a kid, I knew every soldier from school that died. It didn’t matter if the soldier died in war or during training, in a car accident or maybe even committed suicide. He died during military service. He was drafted to protect this country; never asked questions, just did what he had to do.” Milner noted, “You can understand how unique it is even more these days, when you see what’s going on in Russia and Ukraine. You hear about 20,000-30,000 people dying and they’re not even telling their families. They’re saying that their loved ones are just not calling for a week or two. You understand what a commitment we, as a country, as a people, have to our loved ones and to the families of these people. This is our strength.” Milner added, “This is why we are able, for 74 years, to protect our borders day after day after day. We can do it because we know we vouch for one another, because we know that if something happens to us, there’s a family and there’s a family of the family and friends and they will never be left alone. There will always be someone with them. Whether in their hometown, or in Riverdale, New York, we stand for one another. That is our strength.”
Participating in the event were: Rabbi Steven Exler of HIR who led Yizkor for Yom Hazikaron, Rabbi Barry Dov Katz of CSAIR who chanted the “Kel Maleh Rachamim” memorial prayer, and Hanita Hayim, who read a poem by Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid. The Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel was recited by HIR Rabbanit Bracha Jaffe, and Kaddish was said by Elisur Gadasi of Congregation Beth Aharon. In addition, the following community members lit memorial candles: Matt Abrams Gerber, Malka Zalcenstein, Avigdor Gargy, Shira Silverman of Congregation Tehillah and Rosh Kehila Dina Najman of the Kehilah of Riverdale, Students of SAR’s Middle School and fifth graders from Kinneret Day School presented musical performances.
“Today, Israeli flags blow lower at half-mast, a wailing siren is heard, time stands still and all are silent. Ceremonies all over the country are held in honor of Israeli fallen heroes and their families.” Berkman expressed, “Flowers are placed on the gravestones of the fallen soldiers as the grieving families unite with their loved ones. This evening, we join Jewish communities across the world, standing as one, together with the people of Israel in remembrance of our heroes. May their memories be a blessing.”
By Judy Berger