SHINSHINIM CORNER: Yom’s From Far Away, Still More Connected Than Ever.

by Ron Harel

May has always been a month of in-betweens. From routine to goodbyes, from spring to summer. I cannot even begin to explain what a May it has been. This month, we are beginning to wrap up our work in the schools and congregations (which is impossible for me to think of), and we are beginning the exciting preparation for our summer at Tamarack. The weather is (finally!!!) getting a bit better and the sun is pretty much out. May is always unique by itself, but with along with the Yom’s, this year it was more potent than ever, and for me, I feel it was the most significant month out of this whole year, and held moments I will forget.

Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom HaZikaron (National Memorial Day for fallen IDF soldiers and victims of terror), and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) come together every year. They are the most meaningful days in Israeli culture and help us remember, and not forget, those who were perished in Europe only a few decades ago, simply for being Jewish, our soldiers who fell protecting our country, and to remind us that we are independent in the land of Israel thanks to them. 

It was crystal clear to me that as an Israeli, who has family that perished in the Holocaust, and as someone who is about to enlist in the Israeli Defense Forces in a few months, the Yom’s would be meaningful for me, even when I am not in Israel. Still, I didn’t want to feel all of those feelings alone. I wanted the community to feel it with me, and try to explain to American students and colleagues what was happening in those days in Israel, in those moments, of memory and meaning. This is the reason why I am here.

The week of the Yom’s started off with a blast. Every day, another lesson, program, discussion, or event. We all found ourselves jumping from one event to another. From telling high school students about my family who survived the Holocaust to my fears and excitement about joining the IDF. From a Yom HaZikaron ceremony at Frankel Jewish Academy to a Yom HaZikaron Lunch and Learn with the Federation staff. It was the busiest week. Still, never in my nine months of being here I have felt so close and connected. Meeting everyone at the events, having the opportunity to experience it here with this amazing community.

Those busy days have contained many magical and meaningful moments that I will never forget. Still, the one that will forever stick in my mind is the moment at the Yom HaZikaron Lunch and Learn, where I dedicated the session to the memory of my grandfather. I had the opportunity to tell the stories of fallen soldiers through their last letters and words that became songs. Before we wrapped up, we all stood up to a Yom HaZikaron siren, as we do in Israel every year. We all stopped for a moment, to respect together, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to experience this moment with the people of this community. In that moment, I realized that even though I was celebrating the Yom’s from far away, I still felt more connected than ever.