Teaneck—Community members gathered Tuesday evening at the Milton Votee Park bandshell, to mourn the three murdered yeshiva students, Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frankel, and Gilad Shaar, who were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank. The event was hastily organized by Daniel Rothner, founder and director of Areyvut. Members of the Teaneck Police Department were thanked for attending and keeping a watchful eye on the peaceful proceedings.
Approximately 120 people of all ages, from all over the community, listened to emotional comments by two local community leaders: Rabbi Steven Burg, eastern director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Laura Fein, executive director for New Jersey’s region of the Zionist Organization of America.
“The fact that we stand here today with our hearts broken, on the floor, is traumatic for all of us,” said Rabbi Burg, who lives in Bergenfield.
“We learn that all Israel is one guf, one body. And our collective heart has been cut out today,” said Fein, a Teaneck resident.
“We watched the strength of the mothers, the strength of the soldiers, and we were all moved. Every time Racheli Frankel tried to thank the red-eyed soldiers who were searching in Hevron, they said, ‘Why are you thanking us? These are our brothers,’” related Burg.
“My own teenage child is in Modi’in today, the city where the funeral took place. And I can hardly imagine, for a single moment, the pain that these parents must now cope with for a lifetime,” said Fein, her voice breaking with emotion.
Burg said he has spoken with numerous politicians in recent days, and their comments are unanimous in that for the Jewish people, this is a personal issue now, not a political one. “These boys are our brothers, our sons, our children. This has surpassed anything political for all of us.”
“It only adds to our heartbreak that these three boys were such outstanding individuals,” said Fein. “Devoted sons and brothers, excellent students, friends, and most of all sweet-natured and kind human beings. We mourn for them, for our people, and for the community of nations, when we imagine what their contributions to the world might have been,” she said.
“I am inspired by the conduct of their incredible families. Over the entire duration of their heart-wrenching personal tragedy, they have stood as a beacon, an example to all of us, that one may take from tragedy and turn it into hope. They have never uttered a hateful word. They have repeatedly thanked all involved in the search. They have created unity among Jews and Israelis and they have expressed a message of unity and hope for the Jewish people, despite what they must face,” said Fein.
Burg related a thought on the story of the two sons of Aaron dying in the mishkan (tabernacle), comments which Burg attributed to Yeshiva University’s Dr. David Pelcowitz. “When Aaron, the Kohain Gadol, lost his two sons, he was vayidom (silent). The question was asked, ‘Why didn’t they use the word sheket (quiet)? Dr. Pelcowitz says it’s because sheket means you have something to say, and you refrain. Vayidom means there are no words,” Burg said.
Rothner, of Areyvut, said that he would soon be relaying information to the community about Tzedakah projects that will be organized in memory of the slain boys. The crowd dispersed after Chaim Kiss led the group in song, finishing with Hatikvah.