Jun 16, 2015
“Bring Back Our Boys” Resounds In Jewish Unity Day at Federation
What a night for Jewish Unity. What a night for our community.
In all our vibrant Jewish diversity, 500 of us from throughout South Palm Beach County - rabbis, community leaders and neighbors - gathered in Zinman Hall at the Federation on June 3, 2015 to answer a resounding call. A call to honor the memories of Israeli teens Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah, whose tragic kidnapping and murder by terrorists last summer so swiftly and powerfully brought the Jewish world together.
A year ago, Jews from around the world came together to search, to pray, to offer support. The sense of unity reached its peak around the world and in our community as the three boys were found and buried together. Our own community packed rallies not once, but twice to pray, to mourn, to stand in solidarity with the boys’ families and the State and people of Israel.
“So, of course, we were ready to reconvene on short notice when the teens’ parents asked the Jewish world to honor the boys’ memories by re-experiencing and strengthening last summer’s groundswell of unity,” said Rabbi Josh Broide, Director of Community Engagement for the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, which organized the evening event. “Though our community has continued to grow in bonds, strength and collaboration, this anniversary was a poignant and powerful opportunity to honor the teens’ memory by bringing back last summer’s overwhelming sense of togetherness and hope.”
The boys’ parents’ joint call to action, “… that they be remembered not simply as victims of a brutal tragedy, but also as three ‘normal’ boys who succeeded in bringing a nation together," was amplified by a diverse array of dignitaries and Jewish institutions around the world - with a goal of bringing together 1 million people at Unity Day events. In fact, Broide shared, those gathered at the Federation were among 1.2 million participating worldwide – and the South Palm Beach County event was the largest and most diverse in the nation!
In his welcoming remarks, Federation President & CEO Matthew C. Levin shared his pride for the community’s ongoing unity efforts, “Tonight’s tribute is yet another incredible example of how South Palm Beach County is second to none when it comes to showing unity in our community. In good times and bad, our Federation continues to lead the way in unifying all facets of our community.
Levin continued: “Someone asked me recently why other communities haven’t duplicated our success, and the answer is that they will — because we have proven that Jews can unite in spite of our difference. Because there is, and always will be, so much more that unites us than divides us.”
Powerful unity messages from varied Jewish voices were delivered to the full hall by six Reform, Orthodox and Conservative Rabbis: David Baum, Congregation Shaarei Kodesh (C); Moishe Denburg, Chabad of Boca Raton; and Robert Silvers, Congregation B’nai Israel (R), as well as the following three, from whose remarks very brief excerpts follow:
“In spite of being on different branches of the tree of Judaism and whatever differences in those branches exist, all of us know that the roots of that tree are grounded in the same things: G-d, Torah & Israel,” said Rabbi Jessica Spitalnic Brockman of Temple Beth El (R).
“When you see someone not like you - respect them, don’t reject them,” said Rabbi Menachem Jaroslawicz of Delray Orthodox.
“May we continue to focus on what unites us rather than on what divides us,” said Rabbi David Englander of B’nai Torah Congregation (C).
Several riveting short videos added much to the program, one including bereaved mother Racheli Fraenkel. Another featured Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel, saying before 12,000 at Auschwitz during the 2015 March of the Living, saying “We’ve died together; it’s time for us to learn to live together.”
The remarks, the videos and Chazan Choni Cohen were instrumental in creating a seminal night that will continue to impact those present and our community as a whole for the time to come. Cohen chanted a rendition of “El Malei Rachamim,” the memorial prayer for the three murdered boys, and led the crowd in spirited song,
Broide sent the crowd off to joyful Israeli music, saying, “Tonight, we mourned the loss of our three Israelis sons. Together, we celebrated their lives and the continued promise of our homeland, people and community. Together, we will continue to go from strength to strength in solidarity — in times of both celebration and challenge. May the memories of Gil-Ad, Naftali and Eyal — and the courage and wisdom of their parents — continue to be an inspiration to us all.”
To further the spirit of unity among the many gathered neighbors who had never met, Broide further urged attendees to introduce themselves to someone they didn’t know. He invites the community to contact him about Jewish engagement and unity at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561.702.3864.
Local synagogues participating in the Jewish Unity Day gathering included: Anshei Emuna Congregation, B'nai Torah Congregation, Beth Ami Congregation, Boca Jewish Center/Shaaray Tefilla, Boca Raton Synagogue, Boca Raton Synagogue-WEST, Chabad Lubavitch of Central Boca Raton, Chabad Lubavitch of East Boca Raton, Chabad Lubavitch of West Boca Raton, Congregation B'nai Israel, Congregation Shaarei Kodesh, Congregation Torah Ohr, Delray Orthodox Synagogue, Temple Beth El of Boca Raton, Temple Sinai of Palm Beach County, Young Israel of Boca Raton.