Exactly 18 (chai) years ago, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jew. It was only a couple of months after I arrived as a new shaliach (emissary) at what was then called United Jewish Federation of MetroWest NJ.
The traumatic event changed my life the way it transformed many other lives in Israel and around the world. I was driving down the NJ Turnpike with my family after visiting with Shlomo Ben Asher, an area shaliach and tour guide. The radio was on but we were not really listening.
Suddenly the music stopped and I heard something about shootings in Tel Aviv. Instinctively, in what I now call a prophetic moment, I turned to my young kids in the back seat and told them: “Remember the moment. This is a historic incident that will change our lives forever.”
Years later, when I was sharing these memories with a group from our community while visiting the Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, I saw another group walking around the square. Their tour guide was telling them his personal story of that horrible day. Suddenly I realized that it was Shlomo Ben Asher, whom I hadn’t seen for years, and he was sharing with his group how the Shacham’s were visiting his family that day.
Federation had a planned major event the next day. Within hours we were able to mobilize our leadership and switch the program into a very inspiring memorial gathering. I still remember vividly that spending those historic, awful, shocking days in my new community of MetroWest shaped our relationship forever.
I realized then how committed, Zionist, and sensitive our community is. I felt at home away from home and with family away from family. Probably it had something to do with the fact that I am still around. In a very symbolic manner, the chai commemoration day of the assassination is a couple of months after starting my second shlichut with what is now Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. We are all older, wiser, and more experienced, but the impact of this historic incident lives with us forever. Our mission is to educate our next generation about Jewish unity and democratic values.
Our Federation was asked by “Dror Israel,” a young adults movement and one of our partners, to join a diverse group of Israeli individuals and organizations in signing a declaration under the slogan: “Remembering the Murder, Fighting for Democracy.” (attached) We were honored to be one of the very few non-Israeli partners in this initiative. Our Board of Trustees unanimously approved the declaration. Greater MetroWest is positioning itself as one of the most committed, involved, Zionist and sensitive communities anywhere.
Here is what Gilad Perry from Dror Israel wrote us. Please take great pride in his remarks:
Shalom to Our Friends from Greater MetroWest,
At the day of the Rabin assassination in 1995, I was a proud and highly motivated guide in the NOAL youth movement. I led 500 teenagers to the big rally in “Malachai Israel” square .
That moment changed my life and was one of the most motivating reasons to form a community that would devote its life to educating the Israeli younger generation towards the values of democracy, equality, and social involvement, fighting any kind of exclusive acts and indifference. A community that would shape and design its Jewish way of life.
Two days ago at the Rabin square, 18 years after that day, over 30,000(!) people attended the annual Rabin memorial rally, which is organized, produced, and led by a coalition formed by me and my friends from the Dror Israel movement.
It was a rally that involved organizations from left and right, ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox and secular, Jews and Arabs, adults and the youth. All came to state that we must remember the terrible murder and do all we can to strengthen Israeli democracy.
No one in the world would have believed that this sort of rally could have taken place and involve so many people from such diverse sections of Israeli society.
We still believed this was the right and moral thing to do, and step by step we turned it into reality.
That is the story of the Jewish people, of Zionism, of the state of Israel — young people turning dreams into reality.
It makes me proud to have our partners from the Greater MetroWest community participating in this effort and signing the declaration together with many Israeli organizations. Standing as a strong front, to sustain Israel as a just, democratic and Jewish state. You did good. You had an enormous impact in Israel. The fact that so many Israelis from all groups have heard that the Greater MetroWest Jewish community supports these values is very powerful. I thank you and I appreciate it very much. Yashar Koach (good job)!
I have attached the convention all organizations involved signed.
And here is a collection of media articles published in Israel and the U.S:
And some unbelievable and moving pictures