The following note was written by Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, an American-born Conservative rabbi who made aliyah and who is the retired Director of the Conservative Yeshiva at the Fuchsberg Center in Jerusalem, regarding the funeral yesterday of Max Steinberg, the Los Angeles born and raised young man who made aliyah, volunteered for the IDF and was killed in Gaza on Sunday. Max is one of two US citizens in the IDF who have been killed in Gaza. A similar story took place the night before at the funeral in Haifa for his US comrade Sean Carmelli.
Ada and I attended the funeral of Max Steinberg this morning here in Jerusalem. When pulling off the Begin highway north, towards Shaare Tzedek Hospital and Har Herzl, the traffic was already jammed. Tens of thousands of people who never heard of Max Steinberg before yesterday were coming to his funeral. We parked half a mile away, illegally, and joined the crowd.
On arrival at the cemetery area, young women soldiers gave each person a piece of paper. I thought naively it would be about Max Steinberg. In fact, it was a message from the Home Front Command, “Guidelines for Protection within the Cemetery in case of a Rocket Alert.” When’s the last time you were told on attending a funeral that you have 90 seconds to take cover if there is a siren? “Lie on the ground and protect your head with your hands. Wait 10 minutes and then you may resume your routine.”
The huge crowd was all over the cemetery and it behaved very non-Israeli – there was no pushing, no cell phones range, complete silence, even during the remarks in English by Max’s parents and sister and brother. Max’s father said he had no regret that Max had decided to leave Los Angeles and come to Israel and join the IDF. Max’s brother Jake recalled their last time together, watching a film about Bob Marely, of whom Max was a big fan: “Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?” Max had found satisfaction and meaning in Israel, Jake said. He concluded with another quote from Bob Marley: “Live for yourself and you will live in vain; Live for others, and you will live again.” Max, he said, addressing the fresh grave, “you lived for others. You will live in the hearts of all us, again.”
I recalled a statement made by our wise colleague Chaim Listfield over 35 years ago when we were learning Brachot Mishna 7:3, about enhancing the name of God in the zimun before Birkhat HaMazon. In practice we follow Rabbi Akiva, by adding “Elohenu” for any crowd over 10, but the Mishna gives Rebbi Yossi Hagalili’s view that for 100, and 1000, and even 10,000, the name of God is enlarged. And “when there are ten thousand v’hu, and one more…” it changes the invitation to bless God. “This is amazing,” Chaim said, “you can have 10,000 Jews together, and one more comes, and he/she makes a difference.” We were not close to the burial area, we couldn’t see the family (though there were speakers so we could hear), but we could feel that every Jew there made a difference. We came to pay last respects for Max Steinberg and to support his family, and we came away saddened and strengthened. Max “will live again,” but the “routine” we returned to after the funeral will never be the same. Yehi zichro baruch.
On Monday, July 21, hundreds participated in a joint JCPA-JFNA call to hear about the work of our partners on the ground in Israel aiding Israelis during this difficult time. A range of actions is being undertaken, including providing respite and psychological counseling to affected families, tailored and individual care to at-risk communities, and camps and activities for children who have been stripped of a sense of normalcy and a day-to-day routine. By the time of the call, the JFNA had already allocated millions to these groups during the current crisis, and leaders speaking on the call outlined their accomplishments and strategies. Monies collected by JFNA are being fully dedicated to programs on the ground, not to administrative overhead.
The callers heard from: Alan Hoffman, Director General of the Jewish Agency for Israel; Eliot Goldstein, Deputy Director, Global Resources of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; Tali Levanon, Director of the Israel Trauma Coalition; Rakefet Ginsburg, Kehillot Development Director of the Masorti Conservative Movement in Israel; Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism; Avital Govrin Chief Development Officer of World ORT; Grace Rodnitski, Director of International Relations for the Ethiopian National Project; and Ilan Halperin, Director of Resource Development and Missions at the UJA Federation of NY.
The Jewish Agency for Israel is providing one-day respite trips for tens of thousands of children, supplying medication and emergency funds for victims of terror, and delivering psychological counseling to families and staff. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is helping at-risk communities including the elderly, the physically and mentally disabled, and economically at-risk families. Caseworkers tailor aid to each individual’s specific needs, whether it is portable toilets or hot meals, and provide safe getaways to individuals and families. Israel Trauma Coalition is providing a “social Iron Dome,” including psychological care for families of soldiers fighting in Gaza and evacuees. Among other things, the group provides local counselors to the Bedouin community.
Masorti Conservative Movement in Israel has provided an opportunity for 600 children from the southern areas of Israel to go to camp in the north, where they can take emotional refuge, and has provided day camps for children so their parents can go to work. Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism is sending volunteers to community centers in the south and hosting families with special needs at kibbutzim for respite trips. World ORT is creating activities for children in shelters and families of soldiers, and the Ethiopian National Project is conducting respite camps. The UJA Federation in New York is crafting activities for residents closest to Gaza.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014, New York, NY… Conference of Presidents leaders Robert G. Sugarman, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman, urged the Federal Aviation Administration to rescind the temporary ban on commercial flights by US airlines to Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. “While we recognize the need to protect fliers from any danger, we believe this was an excessive measure that will only encourage Hamas to sustain the barrage of rockets and, specifically, to try to target the area of the airport.”
“We commend former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his demonstrative act of solidarity and confidence, flying to Israel on El Al Airlines last night. There are many missions going to Israel to show support for the people of Israel at this difficult time. The absence of travelers not only has a strong economic impact but also a psychological one. When the streets and restaurants are empty, it increases the sense of isolation. In fact, Israel’s American friends and supporters, Jews and non-Jews alike, stand with Israel in record numbers. We understand that Israel’s plight is our plight. Hamas wants to destroy Israel, but also the United States, and the values both countries share. We should not encourage them by invoking a ban on air flights,” said Sugarman and Hoenlein.