Yesterday was the most difficult – and most moving – day of my federation career so far.
After meeting inspiring Druze leaders in our partnership town of Hurfeish, I drove with our Executive Shaliach Amir Shacham, and our Israel Operations Manager, Atara Muoio-Tastas, to the nearby twin Druze villages of Yanuch-Jat.
Yanuch was the home of a hero. Zidan Saif, a 30-year old traffic policeman stationed in Jerusalem, who sprang into action to defend the worshippers at the Har Nof synagogue last week. He took a bullet as he fought the terrorists and was fatally wounded, dying a few hours later.
Yesterday was the last day of the public mourning in Yanuch. There were some 400 men in the main hall when I came in with the Mayor. He sat me along with the family and Salah Tarif, a well-respected Druze political leader (and Israel’s first non-Jewish government minister). And then they handed me the microphone.
My heart was pounding. I actually enjoy public speaking. But this wasn’t the same thing.
I had heard so much, I said, about the values and bravery of Zidan. From the media, from talking with his friends, from my conversation with the mayor.
But in this place I saw not just bravery and values. I saw not just the deep connection of the Jewish People to the Druze people. I also saw the holiness. Not just the holiness of the place, but the holiness of human life and dignity. What he stood for and defended. Like the speakers before me, I said, our lives as Jews and Druze are intertwined and connected. And as a representative from the Jewish community of Greater MetroWest, in the State of New Jersey, I came to show love, honor and respect to the memory of Zidan, his family, and the Druze people.
It wasn’t great. But it was enough.
The mayor introduced me as “the President of the Jewish Federations in the World.” Which, I thought, was a nice touch. I was about to correct him. But as Amir said, as we walked out embraced by the kindness and strength of the family and community, it was true enough. For the mourners in the vast hall, I was representing the Jewish People.
I told Minister Tarif that I was on my way to a shiva call in Har Nof. He grasped my arm as we left. “Tell the Jewish families,” he said, “that we are one.”
From there we drove to the home of the Twersky family in Jerusalem and went to the shiva with Gordon Haas, our CRC Chair. All the shivas for the four worshippers are taking place in the same close area. They all lived close by. There is a beautiful, awful sense of connection and loss in the street. Hundreds and hundreds of men and women, in two separate lines, crammed into a small sixth-floor apartment. Black hats, knitted kipot, shtreimels, head coverings, wigs. It didn’t matter. There was incredible sadness and dignity.
As I left the Druze mourning hall, the father of Zidan clutched my hand and said, in Hebrew, “may we know no more sorrow.”
And leaving the shiva in Jerusalem, I knew why. May the memories of Zidan Saif, Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Rabbi Kalman Ze’ev Levine, Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky and Avraham Shmuel Goldberg be forever for a blessing.
And may we know no more sorrow. Intertwined and interconnected as we are. May it be enough.
P.S. You can receive this blog by email by clicking on the “subscribe” button to the right.