By Stephanie Goodling
Avraham Infeld has addressed the Lehigh Valley before, but on April 11, he did so over Zoom from Jerusalem. Infeld is president emeritus of Hillel International and the founder and director of a number of innovative educational institutions. He has invested a lifetime building Jewish identity and strengthening the State of Israel by educating Jewish youth on the Heberw language, the land of Israel, Jewish values, the Jewish religion and the Jewish community.
“We are at a very, very particular time in the Jewish calendar,” Infeld said. He explained that the Jewish calendar is filled with red-letter “periods” which connect one day to another rather than just a few individual days. The period which he focused on for his talk was the period of Yom HaShoah to Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut. He gave insights on why these three holidays all take place within one week of each other.
“We are first and foremost a people,” said Infeld, speaking of the collective mindset he sees in the Jewish people. He compared the time between these three holidays to the most well-known red-letter period, the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, calling them instead “the nine Days of We.”
“For most Israelis, those days are as serious as the 10 Days of Awe are,” he said.
He put into context why the “Days of We” are important to him, sharing the story of how he was born in South Africa and the impact growing up there had on him. Infeld grew up in a secular but “very, very Jewish” home, and he always felt a tribal identity to the Jewish people.
Moving to Israel as a young adult, Infeld felt he didn’t quite fit in until one day seven months after he arrived, when he was alarmed by air raid sirens going off. Trying to seek shelter, he was shushed by several people standing in silent attention around him. After the two-minute tribute was completed, someone explained to him that it was Yom HaShoah. It was then, Infeld said, that he “all of a sudden felt at home in Israel.”
“Six million Jews died in the Holocaust, but they were not Israelis. They were six million members of my tribe,” Infeld said. “Israel’s basic memory is not of a new state but of a Jewish state, of the homeland of our people – it's steeped in Jewish memory.”
Infeld described what Yom HaShoah feels like in Israel:
“It is already three genreations away [from the kids on the street], but still it is a collective mourning. I know of no other event, no other day in Israel that so expresses the fact that Israel is a Jewish state.”
The connection between Yom HaShoah with the events a week later makes perfect sense to Infeld.
“Our ability to dance and sing on Independence Day is an expression of our ability to recognize what it is we got in return for that price,” Infeld reflected. “What we got in reality is not an Israeli thing, it is a very Jewish thing. The price we pay for the creation of the state of Israel was the recognition of the fact that what we commemorated a week earlier will never happen again to the Jewish people. No more will we go to deaths at other people's whims. No more will we not be able to defend ourselves. And much more than that, never again will there be another Jewish refugee in this world.”
Infeld was pleased to be able to share the importance of the “Days of We” with the Lehigh Valley community.
“I hope that the more and more Jews who join us around the world in making Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut red letter days of one red letter period in their lives and their countries, as well, will help the Jewish people regain its power and use it wisely.”