On this anniversary of the birth of the American Republic, it is fitting to bring attention to a memorial service held for Eyal Ifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel which took place in Philadelphia, in the Mikveh Israel Synagogue, the synagogue of an American Revolutionary hero, Haym Solomon.
On Tuesday evening, July 1, the day after the Jewish world learned that the three kidnapped Israeli boys had been murdered, Jews all over the world rushed to be together.
An organization of Israelis who now live in Philadelphia and a synagogue with both fiercely American and Israeli ties, immediately decided that Mikveh Israel would be the host of a gathering of local lovers of Israel to honor the memory of the three boys and to show their respect to the families of those slain teens.
Sharona Durry, the founder and head of Philly Israel, organized the event with the help of Mikveh Israel’s Rabbi Albert Gabbai.
Durry posted on the group’s Facebook page a message of sorrow and solidarity.
PhillyIsrael wishes to express our agony, our horror and our deepest regret that three innocent boys on their way home from school were murdered in a senseless act of terror. These boys were our boys. These families are our families. This loss is our loss.
Yaron Sideman, Israel’s Consul General for the mid-Atlantic region which includes Philadelphia, quickly agreed to speak at the event. The word went out and more than 250 people showed up to pay their respects and express solidarity.
In addition to words of comfort and strength by Rabbi Gabbai and Consul General Sideman, the executive director of the Greater Philadelphia District of the Zionist Organization of America, Steve Feldman, spoke, as did the president-elect of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Bud Newman.
The rector of Christ Church, Timothy Safford, read the traditional prayer read at funerals,Psalm 23, during the service. Mikveh Israel and Christ Church are on opposite ends of the same city block in the historic east side of Philadelphia, and the two religious institutions hold many events together.
During the memorial service, one woman was visibly emotional. Ayellet Yaron is from Philadelphia, not Israel, but after the service she explained her tears: “Every Jewish life is so important. We lost a part of our future. For over two weeks we’ve said tehillim and held rallies, hoping our boys would return. And now we know they won’t.”
Orly Gabbay leaned forward to say that she studied in a school just a few minutes from where the boys were taken, the Migdal Oz Seminary. One of the things she has found so frustrating is the way the western media focused on the boys hitchhiking, as if that somehow placed part of the blame on them.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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