Central helps spread awareness of missing soldiers

Central helps spread awareness of missing soldiers

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ Dist. 7) talks with Adina Abramov at last December’s Super Sunday in Scotch Plains about the poster she created showing Israel’s missing soldiers. Photo by Elaine Durbach
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ Dist. 7) talks with Adina Abramov at last December’s Super Sunday in Scotch Plains about the poster she created showing Israel’s missing soldiers. Photo by Elaine Durbach

When Adina Abramov designed a poster last year to publicize the plight of Israel’s missing soldiers, her intention was just to raise awareness locally. Abramov, the director of marketing and publicity for the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, said she never thought it would find outlets further afield.

But requests for the poster have come from a number of other communities — including from as far away as Chicago.

Recently a member of Young Israel in New Rochelle, NY, contacted her. Alan Genachowski said he had seen the poster on the Internet, and asked if he could use it. Abramov agreed, and he made a two-by-three-foot copy and put it up in his synagogue. A second copy was posted at Westchester Day School, where his daughter is a student.

The poster was created last fall as part of a Central campaign to promote Jewish peoplehood. It features a picture of Gilad Shalit — the Israel Defense Forces soldier abducted in June 2006 by Palestinian infiltrators near Gaza and held captive since then by Hamas — and of six other soldiers lost years earlier and not nearly as well-known: Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, and Zvi Feldman, who went missing in June 1982 during a battle with Syrian and Palestinian forces near the Lebanese village of Sultan Yaqub; Ron Arad, an Israel Air Force navigator taken captive in October 1986 when his plane went down in Lebanon; Guy Hever, who disappeared in the Golan Heights in August 1997; and Majdy Halabi, an Israeli Druze soldier last seen hitchhiking back to camp on May 24, 2005.

Genachowski said in an e-mail to Abramov, “I placed the poster in shul so it would be ready for Shabbos. The daily minyaners…saw it and discussed it. I went out from shul several times during davening to see the poster surrounded by our children getting educated about our soldiers. On the way home from shul, without any prompting from me, my daughter Sarah and her [friend] and I discussed the missing soldiers.

“At WDS, the poster is the first thing the children see when they walk into school.” The school’s principal told Genachowski “that every time he walked past the poster, he saw our children — the next generation — engaging in dialogue about the missing soldiers.”

The Central federation’s executive vice president, Stanley Stone, said the poster was intended to highlight the atrocities committed by Israel’s enemies. “While we focus on the positive achievements and we continue to honor the victims of the Holocaust, this is part of our contemporary life — something that is happening now. In any terms, this is an unacceptable form of warfare, and no one on the other side is lifting a finger to counteract it.”

The poster, he said, was created “to raise awareness and get people to feel the sense of connection, and that we share one destiny.”

Abramov created the poster with information she gleaned from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She said, “When we decided to launch this campaign, my first step was to reach out to the various Israeli and Jewish organizations to see what material already existed. I was shocked to learn that not one organization or government agency had a single high-quality piece that pulled all of this together, so I decided to create one myself.”

Politicians and local leaders who saw the poster at Central federation’s Super Sunday last year asked about the soldiers and said they would try to spread word about them, and Jewish day schools asked for copies.

When people call to ask about using the poster, Abramov said, they “always sound impassioned and eager to carry this important message forward….

“I am thrilled that what started off as an internal campaign to raise awareness has now expanded to a truly national stage with a momentum that is both encouraging and contagious.”

Abramov said that many people don’t even realize that seven Israeli soldiers are still missing, “some of whom have been gone decades with little or no information about their whereabouts or fate, and I feel that they are our collective responsibility.

“As a communal professional,” she said, “it is always gratifying to be involved in a project as meaningful as this. But perhaps more significantly, as a Jewish mother, sister, and daughter, I really feel for the families of those who went missing while defending our people and our land, and I want to do all I can to help intensify the focus on their plight.

“It is my wish and prayer that we should be able to put away these posters due to the positive resolutions of all of these seven cases soon.”

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