The combined Yom Hazikaron/Yom Ha’atzmaut commemoration at the YM-YWHA of Union County on April 23 drew one of the largest crowds the center has ever seen.
Over 400 people attended the tribute to Israel and its fallen warriors, which featured a performance by the Maccabeats, Yeshiva University’s popular a cappella group.
“In my 25 years at the Y, I think this was the best turnout I’ve ever seen,” said Y assistant executive director Jani Jonas.
Bringing the Maccabeats, she said, was the brainchild of Maor Tiri, the Israeli youth shaliah, or emissary, of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, who helped Jonas coordinate the program, with assistance from the federation’s Israel Program Center.
The event, which was free and open to the community, was financed with support from the Halpern family, Clara Kramer, and the federation; the Y is a federation agency.
The event included a performance by the choir of the Jewish Educational Center Yeshiva, brief speeches from an array of speakers, and a slide tribute to three three Israeli boys whose kidnapping and murder preceded last year’s conflict in Gaza.
There were also video messages from some of the young Israelis who served as emissaries with the Union County Jewish community over the past few years, including Yaniv Tayar (who served in 2006-07), who was shown with his three children.
Also projected was a picture of a slender young Israeli, an immigrant from England, taken 25 years ago, “and some 25 pounds lighter,” quipped that soldier, Dov Ben-Shimon, now CEO of the GMW federation.
He told the crowd about his recent attendance in Israel at a ceremony to honor Zidan Saif, the Druze traffic policeman who died defending worshipers during an attack at the Har Nof synagogue in Jerusalem last November. In the connection between the Jewish and Druze people of Israel, he said, he “saw the hope and the promise.”
“Nothing is more important for a strong and secure Jewish community here in Greater MetroWest than a strong and secure Israel,” said Ben-Shimon. Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut are reminders “of the price we paid and the responsibility we have to protect and preserve what we’ve built.”