Yom Hazikaron Commemoration and Day of Learning at HAT

by | Jun 13, 2014 | Other News

A meaningful day of commemoration and learning on Yom Hazikaron, Israeli Memorial Day, was held on May 5, 2014/5 Iyar 5774 at the Hebrew Academy of Tidewater Konikoff Center of Learning for students and the community.

Beginning at 8:30 am, students, faculty, former IDF soldiers and community members stood in silence at the flag poles in front of the Sandler Family Campus. The Israeli flag was lowered and a service led by students and guests took place. Rabbi Mordechai Wecker, head of school, led students in prayer as he shared his hopes and blessings for all of the Israeli Defense Forces, with specific mention of his 23-year-old daughter who recently made Aliyah and is currently serving in the IDF.

Following the flag pole ceremony, everyone moved into the Fleder multipurpose room to continue the service. On each chair in the room was a picture and biography of a fallen Israeli soldier. A video clip expressing the sadness of the sacrifices made by “Reservists” in the IDF was shown and a few Israeli HAT parents shared their personal IDF stories. Students from grades 4 and 5 sang a Hebrew song about friendship and memory and the commitment made by those who lived to remember those who died by promising not to forget their youth, splendor and sacrifice.

Three learning sessions were offered after the service. The first, Israel Through Local Voices, featured three community heroes. Maly Jackson began by telling the story of leaving Ethiopia. Jackson, along with her mother, uncle and two-year-old sister left her father, grandparents, and close extended family to trek across the Sudan in hopes of meeting up with members of the IDF to take them to Israel. Making this journey with a group, they could only walk at night for fear of being robbed and killed. Jackson fell into a snake pit and witnessed people dying around her on their three-week walk. They finally crossed the Ethiopian boarder into Sudan where they stayed in refugee camps for three months and then to another town for four more months. Finally the IDF came and led Jackson and several other refugees to an awaiting airplane headed for freedom and a new life in Israel.

Amos Berkovich, whose parents were living in Hungary in an area right near the Romanian boarder, was the second speaker. His mother was from Lublick, Poland and they were very religious, members of the Chasidic Satmar sect. Berkovich’s father, Mordechai Shmuel Kaufman, heard Zev Jabotinsky speak warning of the impending catastrophe facing European Jewry and urging all Jews to make Aliyah. He was hypnotized by Jabotinsky, but the Satmar Rebbe counseled against leaving Europe for Palestine. Kaufman could not be deterred and looked for ways to get to Palestine. A friend of his with the last name Berkovich, had already received papers for Palestine but was waiting on his preferred papers to America. He made a deal that if he received entry to the U.S.A., he would give Kaufman his papers for Palestine. Indeed, this is what happened and Mordechai Kaufman assumed the name Mordechai Berkovich and in 1946, in Palestine, Amos Berkovich was born. Amos’ memories of his childhood were happy. He remembered being joined in Palestine by members of his extended family who had survived Auschwitz, and that he and his parents would sleep in the flower beds outside their home in order for those who survived to sleep in their beds. He told HAT students and guests that they did not have TV, they barely had radio, but they were alive and happy.

Avraham Ashkenazi then shared his family’s story of getting to Israel. Born in 1938 in Bulgaria, Ashkenazi lived in a small city near the beach, which was home to 25,000 to 27,000 Jews. Unlike other European nations, the Bulgarian people, churches, universities and government spoke out against the Nazis and did not ship any of their Jews on trains. Some Jews went to the mountains to become partisans, but overall Ashkenazi remembers having a flourishing Jewish life. In 1948 when ships were allowed to pass through Cypress to go to Israel, Ashkenazi’s family decided to go. They travelled across Yugoslavia by train to the capital Sofia. He and others left with only a suitcase in hand—most of which contained food. Ashkenazi, 10 years old at the time, remembers pulling up to an area with some low lights along the side of the road. There, guys from the Haganah and Palmach met the group and took them to a ship which was loaded with food and provisions. Once the ship was boarded and set sail, its name was changed to Ha’atzmayut —Independence.

The final two learning sessions of the day, World Jewry Answering the Call for a Jewish Homeland and Hatikvah-Israel-The Jewish Hope, were taught by Leon Covitz, HAT teacher, who was instrumental in planning this significant program. The program was also sponsored in part by a grant from the Tidewater Jewish Foundation.

“It was a remarkable and moving program. Next year I hope more of the community will come out to pay tribute for the brave men and women who paid with their lives to fight for a strong Israel, “ says Bonnie Brand, HAT trustee.

Hebrew Academy of Tidewater is a constituent agency of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

by Deb Segaloff