July 23, 2024
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Community-Wide Yom Hazikaron/Yom Ha’atzmaut Program Honors a True Hero

On Monday evening, Congregation Keter Torah hosted a community-wide program in honor of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, which included a special presentation from Paul Kaye, a U.S. Navy officer who helped transport Jewish refugees to Palestine before the State of Israel was established.

As Kaye ascended the podium, he proudly introduced himself as a “Machalnik,” a member of Machal, the Hebrew acronym for Mitnadvei Chutz LaAretz, or volunteers who came from overseas to save others.

After the war, Kaye, a U.S. Navy veteran, worked in a record shop in the Bronx. One day, he received an unusual phone call from an unidentified man asking if he wanted to help his people. He was told to go to 39th Street and Lexington Avenue on a specific day, where a man in a leather jacket would be waiting at 4 p.m., holding a newspaper. Kaye was told to follow this man if he wanted to help his people. For whatever reason, Kaye went. He followed the waiting man and was escorted to an office where he was clandestinely recruited by the Haganah to sail ships transporting displaced persons to Palestine.

Kaye left town without offering details to anyone, and went to Baltimore where he embarked on the Aliyah Bet ship “Hatikvah.” Aliyah Bet was an underground movement that brought Jews from Europe to Palestine by sea. At the end of the war, in 1945, large numbers of Jews who had survived the Holocaust found themselves outcasts in Europe. The mission was to break through the British Blockade and get Jewish refugees to Palestine. There were many roadblocks along the way and, added Kaye, at times their mere survival was nothing short of a miracle.

When Hatikvah was less than two days out of Palestine, it was spotted by a British aircraft and those aboard were captured. Kaye, along with 1,500 displaced persons, was sent to a British prison camp in Cyprus. Soon after, Kaye was transferred to Athlit prison camp in Palestine from which he escaped with the help of the Palmach.

In 1948, Kaye returned to New York and sailed another clandestine ship, the S.S. Director, to Marseilles, France. From there, he transported 1,500 Holocaust survivors to Israel. This ship was later renamed the S.S. Galila, and after Israel’s establishment it sailed under the Israeli flag.

Upon his arrival in Israel, Kaye’s friend urged him to join the Israeli Navy. Kaye became a Navy SEAL and went on to serve the State of Israel and defend the country in the War of Independence.

Kaye feels honored to be recognized so many years later for his invaluable service. Machal volunteers have made a tremendous contribution toward the State of Israel. “From here we learn every person can make a difference,” articulated Kaye. “Go visit Israel as often as you can and remember Am Yisrael Chai,” he declared.

Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrates people like Paul Kaye, who risked their lives for the creation of the State of Israel. To those individuals we must be eternally grateful. Beyond our gratitude, however, is the power vested in our generation of Jews across the world who must take action to protect and defend Israel.

“The actions really do get noticed,” expressed Carmi Abramowitz, co-chair of the event. “Tell our elected officials that we strongly support the relationship between America and Israel,” he added.

“It is unifying and inspirational to bring together members from many different shuls in the Teaneck area to commemorate Yom Hazikaron in a meaningful manner and to celebrate the modern-day miracle of the birth of the State of Israel. This year, we were particularly fortunate that our speaker, Paul Kaye, a true hero, elevated the event with his witty and poignant personal role in bringing survivors of the Shoah through the British blockade to Palestine and fighting for the nascent State of Israel,” commented Miriam Hermann.

As the sun set and Yom Hazikaron ended, Yom Ha’atzmaut was ushered in with a beautiful flag ceremony presented by the seventh-grade girls of Yavneh Academy. The memorial mood shifted to a festive atmosphere as participants celebrated Israel’s independence with singing and dancing. The feeling of unity and camaraderie was paramount among the crowd. It seemed that everyone in attendance was celebrating the birth of a personal milestone—the State of Israel.

The event was co-chaired by Miriam Hermann, Carmi Abramowitz and Debbie Abramowitz, with sponsors including local synagogues, UJA Federation and the RZA (Religious Zionists of America) Fellows program. There were youth activities organized by the RZA Fellows and local youth directors Divsha and Martin Tollinsky of Rinat Yisrael, Rivki Rosenthal of Keter Torah and Arik and Yarden Nagel from Shaarei Orah.

By Andrea Nissel

 

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