On Monday, April 27, the Riverdale community came together to observe the State of Israel’s Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron) with a virtual event hosted by the Riverdale Y. The program began with the sound of a piercing siren to mark a moment of silence.
Ambassador Dani Dayan, consul general of Israel in New York, was the featured speaker. “Last week, we marked Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust remembrance day. On that day, we marked the price that we had to pay for not having a Jewish independent state. Now, we mark Yom Hazikaron, the Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror, the price we have today, in order to have and maintain an independent Jewish state,” Dayan said.
“But make no mistake,” he continued, “Israel was not established because of the Holocaust; it was established in spite of the Shoah. It was not established because of a U.N. resolution. It was not established because of the remorse of the world over the Holocaust. It was established because of the young Jewish men and women who were ready to fight and to pay the ultimate price. And, they continue to fight and pay the ultimate price in order to maintain the State of Israel,” adding, “Across Israel, from north to south and from east to west, there is no family, no community, from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat, from Tel Aviv to the Jordan Valley, that has not paid the price, that has not felt the bereavement, in defending the State of Israel.”
“Make no mistake,” he emphasized, “bereavement crosses Israel, but does not divide Israel. On the contrary, the bereavement unites Israel. It makes us more determined, more forceful, more united in order to maintain the Zionist project, the establishment, the continuity, the renewal of the State of Israel.
“We seek peace. We hate war,” concluded Dayan. “We never educate for war; we always strive for peace. We have a mighty army because we need it, not because we want it. We never change the values of Jerusalem for the values of apartheid. But we will continue to do whatever is necessary and sometimes pay extremely high prices in order to continue to maintain the independence of the Jewish state in its ancient homeland, Eretz Yisroel.”
Students from Kinneret Day School then presented “First We Cry,” a responsive reading in Hebrew.
“It was critical that our students participated in this event,” explained Rabbi Aaron Frank, KDS head of school. “First, because of the importance of them being part of the community and second, as a culmination of their learning of the topic this year with their teacher and director of the program, Hanita Hayim. Being part of the broader Riverdale community is so important, especially at this time where we all feel so alone, as it provides a feeling of unity.”
The program continued with a message from Lone Soldier Leah Nerenberg, a former Riverdale resident and an SAR High School graduate. She shared a few thoughts about Israel and Tzahal, and how her experiences related to Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut changed by moving to Israel.
“When I moved to Israel, I realized there is something more to this. I realized that the transition happened when I began to understand the way Israelis live here. One of the things I realized was that instead of Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Hazikaron just being two days on the calendar, these days are manifestations of the way that Israelis feel all year round,” she explained.
“Since moving to Israel and being a part of Israeli society and culture, I have begun to turn into that as well,” continued Nerenberg. “I have begun to realize that not a day goes by when I don’t think about the contributions that soldiers and civilians have made to Israeli society and to our country, giving up their lives for it. Not a day goes by where I don’t feel the gratitude and pride to live in this county.”
Rabbi Joseph Robinson, director of community engagement at the Riverdale Y, explained, “The Riverdale Jewish Community Partnership (RJCP) strives to provide programming and opportunities to engage members of all experiences and observances. Facilitating the Riverdale Yom Hazikaron tekes ceremony is an opportunity to gather the community together in a way that engages neighbors together. It opens a window into the lives and memories that are so dear to so many. As such, we strengthen the relational connections to each other on a deeper level.”
The event concluded with Yizkor, Kel Maleh and Hatikvah, led by members of the participating Riverdale shuls.
By Judy Berger