Ein li eretz acheret (I have no other country)

The Jewish calendar reminds us that this is a busy time, from Passover through the Season of Independence, including Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom Hazikaron (Israel Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day — 75 years this year). It is with all these events in mind that we spend time with family and friends, reflecting on festivities or sharing our collective memories.

There is commentary of the Haggadah about the Jewish people’s responsibility to have compassion for the weak and vulnerable: “You shall protect and respect one who is different, for you, more than any other people on earth, know what it is to be different.”

Passover teaches us to make the world a more compassionate place. It is because of compassionate people like you that, during this time, we’ve been able to offer innovative programming that provides meaningful connection and involvement. And while doing all of this and more, we continue to connect with our extended family and to help our brothers and sisters in need locally, in Israel and around the world.

Passover leads us into the Season of Independence, beginning with Yom Hashoah. The Holocaust played a significant role in the founding of the modern Jewish State of Israel. On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion announced the establishment of the State of Israel, saying, “The Nazi Holocaust, which engulfed millions of Jews in Europe, proved anew the urgency of the reestablishment of the Jewish State, which would solve the problem of Jewish homelessness by opening the gates to all Jews and lifting the Jewish people to equality in the family of nations.” We hope you will join us as we commemorate Yom Hashoah on Monday, April 17, at 7 p.m. at the JCC, hearing from Fay Kun, who will share about her mother — “Frieda’s Story: Life, Love and Survival.”

One week later, we will observe Yom Hazikaron, on Monday, April 24, at Congregation Keneseth Israel at 7 p.m. The modern Jewish State of Israel exists because of the sacrifice and heroism of those who fell as a result of war and unthinkable terrorism.

According to Rabbi David Hartman z”l of the Shalom Hartman Institute, the placing together of Yom Hazikaron — the day of remembrance — followed by Yom Ha’atzmaut — the day of our independence as a state — reveals a profound characteristic of the Israeli psyche and of its value systems. Only as one grasps the way we move so uniquely from weeping to celebration does one understand in the deepest sense what memory, history and the hope for a better future life means for the Jewish people.

The current situation in Israel has been like nothing before in her short history. Daniel Gordis wrote, “What matters is that what you have seen play out in recent weeks has been an extraordinary exhibition of love of country, of devotion to Zionism, of almost completely violence-free protests by hundreds of thousands of people for three months. What you have seen is the melding of (whatever little bit remains of) the left and the center, joined by many on the right who were so deeply worried about the split in the nation that they, too, though they favored the reforms, said it was time to stop. It was time to heed the people.”

Our hearts are with Israel and our Partnership2Gether community, Yoav, at this trying time. We hope discussions will turn to dialogue and repair.

It is appropriate to share the statement issued by the Lehigh Valley Clergy Group: “As we are about to celebrate Passover, the Festival of Freedom, we stand with Israel as it faces an unprecedented crisis. Our tradition teaches that Tzedek and Mishpat, divine justice, demands the protection of all. As American Jews, we hear, care, and pray for a peaceful resolution to this internal conflict and welcome conversations over the differences that will lead towards a stable agreement between the two sides that will be faithful to the democratic ideals upon which the State was founded.”

As Jews the world over watch the current events in Israel unfold, it is a sobering reminder of the fragility of global Jewry — and a reminder of the interconnectedness of the Jewish world. So, too, should this be a reminder within our own community that our strength is in our connectedness. We are at our most vulnerable when we are divided.

Please join us as we come together as a community for Israel’s 75th Independence Day on Wednesday, April 26, at the JCC 4:00-6:00 p.m. We’re going to celebrate. And as Daniel Gordis also stated, although it will not be a carefree party or unsullied by what has happened, it will be profound. It will be a day of thanksgiving. A day of pride. A day of hope.

Wishing you and your families a Zissen Pesach and a meaningful Chag Ha’atzmaut!

Looking forward to seeing you at these community events.