May 12, 2016

Worldwide Jewish Unity Day’s Major Local Event to Strengthen Bonds across Community

Held at FAU, Evening Will Honor Memories of Three Israeli Teens Kidnapped and Murdered Two Years ago

Once again, a vibrant crowd from across Jewish South Palm Beach County will come together in testament to the strength and joy of our united Jewish community. This year, they’ll gather at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, June 6, 2016 at the Carole & Barry Kaye auditorium at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, for the local observance of Jewish Unity Day, joining more than a million people in 24 countries across six continents.

The multimedia program will feature Orthodox Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of Boca Raton Synagogue, Reform Rabbi Dan Levin of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton, and Conservative Rabbi David Steinhardt of B’nai Torah Congregation among others. The event is free of charge, but registration is required at jewishboca.org/unity.

Jewish Unity Day was spearheaded by the parents of the three Israeli teens, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah, who were kidnapped by terrorists on their way home from school and murdered in summer 2014. Jews of all backgrounds and observance from around the world came together passionately, in prayer, in support and, ultimately, in grief. More than 1,000 people from throughout South Palm Beach County’s diverse Jewish community gathered together not once, but twice to pray, to mourn and to stand in solidarity with the boys’ families and the State and people of Israel.

A year later in 2015, the boys’ parents asked the Jewish world to re-experience and strengthen that groundswell with a Jewish Unity Day in observance of their sons’ first yahrtzeit (yearly memorial). Among the array of global events held in response, South Palm Beach County’s was recognized as the largest and most inclusive in the world.

This year’s special guests will Bat-Gilam and Ofir Shaer, parents of Gil-Ad Shaer who was lost in the tragedy. Other special guests will include Congressman Ted Deutch, who experienced the fears and loss of those tragic weeks in Israel two summers ago, and met with the boys’ families during their mourning; and Russell F. Robinson, CEO of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), that is building a memorial to the boys near the site of their kidnapping.

“Last year at our first Jewish Unity Day event, we packed the hall with an overflow crowd, so this year our spirit will spread throughout the auditorium at FAU,” said Rabbi Josh Broide, Director of the Deborah and Larry D. Silver Center for Jewish Engagement of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, which is presenting the event in partnership with more than 60 local synagogues, schools, agencies and organizations. “In fact, our Jewish community’s spirit is so strong, it will be spread worldwide by simulcast. I promise you that everyone who joins us will not only be inspired, but also amazed – and they might even shed some tears of joy.”

“The remarkable initiative exhibited by the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County is a true reflection of the reason we first created Unity Day,” said Anat Schwarz Weill, Executive Director of Jewish Unity Day and the Jerusalem Unity Prize. “By bringing together so many people from different walks of life and segments of the Jewish community, this Federation has proven that the three boys’ legacy of inspiring greater Jewish unity remains very much alive. We feel honored to have the Federation and its partners as our partners in this effort, and to see how the ideals of a more united Jewish world are being spread all over the globe.”

“This extraordinary Jewish community has done a remarkable job of uniting when we face local, domestic or international challenges,” said Matthew C. Levin, President & CEO of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, who will also present at the event, along with the Federation’s Board Chair, Anne L. Jacobson and Executive Vice President, Marla Weiss Egers, as well as Boca Raton Synagogue Rebbetzin Yocheved Goldberg.

“We have seen how we can put aside all of the differences and come together across the usual boundaries of Jewish life for these greater purposes,” continued Levin. “Our community goes farther, demonstrating that Jewish unity is an ongoing practice. We do not have to wait for a tragedy or challenge to unite. We can come together simply because by heart, by history and by fate, we are all one Jewish family, and we are stronger together.”

The three senior rabbis who will keynote the evening concur.

“When Naftali, Eyal and Gil-Ad were kidnapped, the South Palm Beach County Jewish community came together multiple times, from every segment, from each denomination and from those with no affiliation,” said Rabbi Goldberg. The feelings of unity, peoplehood and togetherness that filled our assemblies on those days has forever been imprinted on our hearts and embossed in our memories.

“What makes our community remarkable and perhaps unique, is the level of unity, togetherness and cooperation we show even when circumstances don’t demand or call for it,” continued Goldberg. “Former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yisroel Meir Lau has said, ‘We have learned how to die together. It is time for us to learn to live together.’ I am extremely excited to celebrate our proactive unity from love, not just a reactive unity from terror, and I urge everyone to join us.”

“Our community is getting together not because of a crisis, but because of our values, said Rabbi Steinhardt. “We understand the power of Jewish unity when we are threatened or facing danger. But in a different way, on June 6, we will celebrate our unity when we can be together while recognizing our differences. We are united as a people with a homeland, a sacred text and values that cherish life and freedom.”

“I am truly honored to participate in our community’s embrace of Jewish Unity Day,” said Rabbi Levin. I am continually overwhelmed by how the families of our three boys lost two years ago chose this extraordinary path to memorialize Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah. What extraordinary strength and courage it takes to respond to an act of vicious hatred with goodness and love!

“On the cusp of the holiday of Shavuot, we ask ourselves what inspired The Holy One at Sinai to speak to all of Israel at once,” continued Rabbi Levin. “It was only when we came together to be one with each other, that The Holy One could come to be one with us. May the spirit of Jewish Unity Day inspire us all to draw closer to one another, so that we can see more clearly the light of God’s presence in our community and the world.”

Registration is required at jewishboca.org.unity. For more information about the local Jewish Unity Day event, the public is invited to call 561.852.3173 or 561.558.2112, or to email joshb@bocafed.org or jessicad@bocafed.org. Additional information about Jewish Unity Day’s mission, depth and breadth is available at http://unityprize.org/home-page.