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YINR Hosts WTA for Community Yom HaZikaron/Yom Ha’Atzmaut Program

WTA students perform on Yom HaZikaron at YINR.

On Monday, May 13, the Young Israel of New Rochelle hosted a Yom Hazikaron Tekes presented by the students of the Westchester Torah Academy (WTA). Participating in the program were YINR Rabbi Reuven Fink, YINR Associate Rabbi Chaim Axelrod, Rav Bet HaSefer Rabbi Avi Hoffman, Rav Ronen and Chazzan Shim Craimer.

Rabbi Fink began, “I wanted to mention that for all of us this is a very special year, a very unique year.” Recounting the YINR missions to Israel, “We went down south; we went up north. We also attended funerals; we went to houses of shiva. We saw the families; we saw the loss. For most of us, even though we know chayalim and chayalot are constantly losing lives in smaller numbers to defend the state of Israel, to defend the Jews of the world, this year many of us were at fresh graves, we were there for funerals, we were there for shloshim. We were there when families were grieving, lying on the graves crying their eyes out. It is very real, it is very terrible.

Omri Peretz, HY”D memorialized by WTA students at YI New Rochelle Yom HaZikaron ceremony.

“We are here together as Jews to commemorate that,” he continued. “We also know that the State of Israel is under assault and the world keeps hearing of the ‘River to the Sea.’ They don’t want there to be a State of Israel; they don’t want there to be Jews. We hear, ‘kill the Jews,’ ‘Holocaust 2,’ ‘the Final Solution 2.’ It is a terrible atmosphere for the State of Israel and the Jewish people. But people have hope, a bitachon. Just as the State of Israel was established and will continue forever and ever, we have to commemorate those who have fallen and celebrate this eternal bridge between God and the Jewish people through the land of Israel.”

WTA students spoke, “Yom Hazikaron this year is different; sadly, we do not recall past wars this year. While Israel still fights, we focus on our most recent sacrifices, the brave men and women who fought to protect their home. To protect our home.”

The students continued, “On October 7, Yom Simchat Torah, a brutal enemy infiltrated our country! In the chaos and fog of war, young and old, soldiers and reservists, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, all showed bravery, resilience, courage and ingenuity. 839 civilians were murdered. Over 600 soldiers died in battle, and more than 6,000 were wounded.”

YINR Rabbi Reuven Fink lights a memorial candle for fallen soldiers and terror victims on Yom HaZikaron 5784.

These WTA students focused on three individuals who were close to members of the community, Staff Sergeant Omri Peretz, HY”D, 20 years old when he was killed on October 7 in a fierce battle to protect Kibbutz Kisufim. He served as a troop commander in Tzanchanim, the elite paratroopers unit.

Corporal Noa Martziano, HY”D was 19 when her parents were informed that she was murdered after being taken hostage in Gaza. Noa served in an intelligence unit responsible for monitoring sensitive and sophisticated radar in order to alert the army of any suspicious activity near the border.

“On a visit home, Noa had told her parents that she discovered one of the tunnels that Hamas had dug, in preparation for an attack. Noa had a glimpse of the approaching threat. Noa was right. Sadly, she was taken hostage on October 7 with 12 other female soldiers from her base. She called her parents to let them know of the attack. As she spoke to them, she sounded calm and professional.”

Yossi Hershkovitz, HY”D was 44 when he was killed in Gaza. Yossi, a well-known high school principal, was exempt from miluim when he volunteered for reserve duty. Yossi was also a musician. Yossi wrote a melody to the words of Tehillim 23, “Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Singer Shlomi Shabbat was approached by Yossi’s family to write a song using the letters Yossi wrote home while fighting in Gaza. “Hadas, Yossi’s wife, hoped that the melodies and music will breathe life into her husband’s last words and be an eternal memorial for Yossi.”

Chazzan Shim Craimer’s Musical Maariv begins the transition from Yom HaZikaron to Yom HaAtzmaut in New Rochelle.

The students then paid tribute to the hostages, calling for all the hostages to come home. They played the drums during a video of 1,000 musicians who gathered in Caesarea to sing, pray and call out loudly for the release of the hostages.

As the sun set, Chazzan Craimer led Ma’ariv, which included a musical Hallel as they transitioned to the Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration.

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