Seattle’s Jewish community unites in grief
Despite the miles of land and ocean that separate the small Jewish community of Seattle from Israel, for the past nineteen days the distance seemed not quite as great. The hours were punctuated by an anxious constant search for and sharing of information, anything about our missing boys. The three unbearably long Shabbat afternoons followed by a mad rush to the computer to hopefully find some good news. Ubiquitous in the Seward Park neighborhood were yard signs with the photos of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal.
Our lives revolved around our extended Israel family, we learned the names of the brave mothers, Rachel, Iris and Bat Galim. The mothers provided us with strength and hope, we were to comfort them but it was they who comforted us.
Ultmately the outcome we dreaded had come to pass, three innocent boys ripped from this world at the hands of the blackest, darkest of evil.
Tonight Seattle’s Jewish community united in grief at two separate but coordinated memorial programs.
The first; a class given in memory of the martyred teens by Rabbi Ron-Ami Meyers was delivered at Congregation Ezra Bessaroth. Rabbi Meyers observed that from this horrific tragedy the Jewish people demonstrated a remarkable unity. He noted the millions of Jews and the many of our Christian friends who grasped the horror of what had occurred and the vital necessity of standing together against evil. The elegant treatise wove together multiple commentaries to illustrate the evolution from the callousness of Joseph’s brothers to the model of empathy in Moses.
Rabbi Meyers explained that it was only once Moses noticed the plight of his fellow that God saw the nation as worthy of His favor. “It is through our compassion” said Rabbi Meyers ” that we become worthy of Hashem’s mercy”.
Invoking Rav Avraham Isaac Kook Rabbi Meyers extolled the momentary dissolution of the “false dichotomy between secular and religious” that was experienced during those days of not knowing and the mournful days that followed. Said Rabbi Meyers ” Rav Kook wanted to rid us of the unnecessary divisions in the Jewish world, as Rav Kook said “there were no sects at Sinai.””
A larger community memorial commenced at Minyan Ohr Chadash immediately following the event at Ezra Bessaroth. The sanctuary was packed with over two hundred from across the spectrum of Seattle’s Jewish community. Rabbis from the Seward Park congregations were in attendance as was Jewish Federation President Keith Dvorchik.
Following an opening invocation, Rabbi Moshe Kletenik, the Av Bet Din of the Va’ad Harabanim of Seattle spoke of the faith and nobility of the mothers of Gilad, Eyal and Naftali. Rabbi Kletenik was in a meeting with Ashklenazi Chief Rabbi, Rav David Lau when the news of the boy’s tragic deaths became known. Rabbi Kletenik related how Rav Lau marveled at the great Emuna, the faith of Rachel Frankel who was asked before the awful news became known, “What if our prayers are not answered?” She immediately responded, “Even if, God forbid, tomorrow I hear the most bitter news, your prayers will not have been in vain.”
Rabbi Kletenik shared Rachel Frankel’s statement after hearing of the killing of an Arab child “There is no difference between blood and blood. Murder is murder”. His voice rising in passion and pain, Rabbi Kletenik proclaimed of the three murdered teenagers “they are ours!” adding there is something unique and special about the Jewish people” referring to the shared Jewish sense of family, of communal empathy and sorrow when such tragedies occur.
Channeling the agony of not just these murders, but the ancient, blood drenched history of the Jewish people, Rabbi Kletenik declared “These three young men were not soldiers. They were murdered for one reason. They were Jews!”
But, noted Rabbi Kletenik in as much of a hopeful prayer as a statement that “From darkness emerges light; from curse, blessing; from hatred, greater love for one another; from an attempt to destroy, untold strength and nobility. “
As Rabbi Kletenik finished his remarks, those in attendance sat, many with heads bowed, tissues in hand. Rabbi Kletenik again invoked the words of Rachel Frankel ““Rest in peace, my dear son. We will learn to sing without you; we will always hear your voice in our hearts.” Concluded the Rabbi “This is our mandate. We must always hear the voices of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. They inspired us to pray and do mitzvos. Their voices had the power to span oceans and to create a sense of caring and of being one people. Let us be inspired to reach out with sensitivity to each other to bridge gaps and try to be united as one.”
Tamar Jacobson, a recently graduated Student of the Seattle Hebrew Academy offered a poem of tribute to the martyred teens and their parents after which Rabbi Frank Varon, Hazzan of Sephardic Bikur Holim sang a soaring El Male Rahamim,
The emotional service continued with communal singing, ending with the prayer of Hamalach HaGoel.
“May the Angel who delivered me from harm bless these boys and may they be called by my name and the names of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac and may they increase greatly upon the land“.
The names of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar will forever be known across the land as a reminder that evil still exists and of the need for good to fight that evil with love for one another and unity.
The Memorial program concluded with the Hatikva.
The Community Memorial Program at Ohr Chadash was jointly sponsored by Minyan Ohr Chadash, Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation, Seattle Hebrew Academy and Northwest Yeshiva High School.