July 23, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 23, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Fair Lawn Shabbat 9/11 Commemoration Draws Praise

A special Shabbat kiddush is almost always associated with an individual person or family, whether it’s to celebrate a wedding, a bar/bat mitzvah, or perhaps in recognition of a notable honor received by a shul member. Shomrei Torah of Fair Lawn’s special kiddush on September 10 was very different in that it went beyond just one family, and, in fact, beyond the entire shul membership.

In a heartfelt display of hakarat hatov (gratitude), shul organizers decided to pay tribute to Fair Lawn’s first responders as part of the 15th anniversary commemoration of 9/11.

Following davening, the first three rows of the shul were vacated for special guests. Representatives of the Fair Lawn Volunteer Ambulance Corps, fire department, police and auxiliary police, rescue squad and CERT teams were all in attendance. Included were the chiefs of police, ambulance corps and volunteer fire department, as well as Mayor John Cosgrove. All were provided large, white kippot before being seated.

The program began with Rabbi Benjamin Yudin delivering a dvar Torah to those assembled, although with less Hebrew for the visitors’ benefits. After all, the gist of it, giving thanks and showing appreciation, did not require a translation. Although the inability to take notes was somewhat limiting, one remembered highlight was Rabbi Yudin’s reference to the fifth commandment, honoring one’s parents. He spoke of each of us being raised and cared for by our parents, and how in Judaism, it shouldn’t be the government who reciprocates when they become old and dependent. Our religion calls for the children to be the caregivers as a demonstration of thanks for all our parents have done for us. In a similar vein, the first responders are there for us 24/7, and we wanted to give back by letting them know we appreciate what they do and don’t take them for granted.

Mayor Cosgrove, who wished everyone a Shabbat Shalom, went on to offer a poignant remembrance of 9/11 and its consequences. He noted that three Fair Lawn residents were among the 2996 people who perished that day. Especially noteworthy for those of us who had forgotten were the 343 firefighters who gave their lives in the ultimate sacrifice for those they serve. Mayor Cosgrove spoke of his family’s roots within the fire department and of his own 40 years of service in Fair Lawn before becoming mayor. He went on to describe the readiness of Fair Lawn’s firefighters to go to the World Trade Center on that fateful day 15 years ago. Ultimately, they were told to stand down.

Especially gripping was his retelling of a story in a book called Last Man Down. It was written by a New York fire chief who was literally the last firefighter to get out alive before the Tower 1 collapse. The chief and his men were in the tower when they heard the cries of a woman stranded on an upper floor. When they reached her they discovered she was wheelchair-bound. As they made their way down they heard an incredibly loud noise which turned out to be the collapsing of the tower around them. Only the stairs and landing they were on remained standing. The woman pleaded with them to leave her and save themselves, but they stayed true to their oath to protect.

The last to address the group was shul member Jeff Cohen, who was at the Trade Center on 9/11. He began by commenting about the absolutely glistening blue skies on that beautiful, sunny day. He spoke of the routine of meeting his fiancee at the time and heading off to work at the Trade Center. This time though, she insisted they first stop off at a coffee shop. Those extra 15 minutes might have made all the difference. As they exited the train that ran beneath the towers, making their way towards the building, throngs of people were frantically heading away from it. They got a close up view of what was happening above and made their escape.

Cohen talked of a cab with passengers approaching at that time, and how he and his fiancee knocked on the window and were permitted inside. He remarked that on any other day, it would be unheard of for both the driver and passengers to be so accommodating. He observed that there was a very real sense of unity among all New Yorkers that day and for weeks after the tragedy. Everyone was brought closer by the event.

The common theme repeated throughout was that of being a community, of lending a helping hand, of showing hakarat hatov, polar opposite from the sentiments of the terrorists who committed these horrific, twisted acts.

The program concluded with Associate Rabbi Andrew Markowitz saying the familiar prayer for the government and officers of the country, recited each Shabbat in many shuls. He finished with a special prayer praising and asking Hashem’s protection for first responders and emergency workers. This unusual prayer was written by two Israelis and translated into English.

Afterwards, Rabbi Yudin invited the guests to hear kiddush and join the community in the ballroom. A number of members then headed towards the front of the shul to thank and shake hands with the visiting first responders. It’s not very often that one witnesses so many people heading away from the food just before the start of a large kiddush.

Afterwards, some of the first responders remained for kiddush. Almost all agreed that it was a successful and very special event. It was not only good community relations, but an act of hakarat hatov of the highest order and a clear kiddush hashem.

Robert Isler is a marketing researcher and writer who lives in Fair Lawn. He can be contacted at [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles