The search for Israeli teenagers Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach came to a bitter end, but in the eyes of those gathered at Beth El Congregation last week, hope, in spite of sorrow, remains.
Hosted by the Baltimore Board of Rabbis, the July 2 memorial service brought the Baltimore Jewish community together to collectively grieve and honor the lives lost.
“We are mourning as a community,” said Beth Goldsmith, co-chair of the Israel and Overseas Committee at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. “It’s what we do; it’s the point of shiva.”
But the gathering was about more than mourning, said Goldsmith, who has been involved with communal affairs since 1978 and travels to Israel at least three times a year.
“The only hope is that with every senseless death, people stand up and make a difference,” she said. “The time for peace is now.”
The memorial commenced with a reading and song of Psalm 121, “God, Our Guardian,” by Cantor Roger Eisenberg. Following was a solemn but hopeful musical selection by clarinetist Dr. Eyal Bor, who had just one night to prepare for the piece adapted from the violin. Cantor Emanuel Perlman of Chizuk Amuno Congregation sang the traditional “El Male Rachamim” prayer.
“[I felt] shock and horror [learning] about the deaths of these children,” Rabbi Amy Scheinerman of Howard County Hospice said in her remarks. “This was senseless, cruel violence.”
Scheinerman chanted Psalm 23 as photos of each of the boys were given to all in attendance. Her prayer interpretation, along with a rendition of “Sim Shalom” by Cantor Thom King and the Beth El Choir, provided a visibly emotional backdrop. Several members of the audience fought back tears.
“As family from afar, we gather to provide strength and support for loved ones,” said Scheinerman. “It is too easy to retreat into fear; though we are not unscathed, we are not bitter. This psalm shows our grief and sorrow but also our hope.”
The ceremony took place as the discovery of the murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, presumably a revenge attack by Israelis, sparked riots in the eastern sections of Jerusalem.
“This is not our way, and I am fully confident that our security forces will bring the perpetrators to justice,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement. “I call on everyone to exercise restraint.”
Amid the rising tensions, Rabbi Chaim Landau, president of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis, promoted a message of peace.
“There needs to be time to heal, and we need more speakers to speak at the nation to realize that the biggest act of revenge against the Palestinians is silence and kindness,” Landau said at the Beth El service.
At the conclusion of the service, yellow ribbons that had been displayed after the Israeli teenagers went missing in June were replaced with black ribbons.
“It’s a tragedy for anyone to lose a life,” remarked one attendee.
“We are never far when something happens to a Jew. It’s felt very strongly. We embrace the concept ‘every Jew is responsible for another,’” said Landau. “Distance is not a representation of how far we are, especially with news and social media represented.”
Andy Katz, assistant administrator at Beth El, said that the service was very much a communal gathering.
“[This service] strengthens the bonding and also allows us to grieve and find outlet in our own surroundings,” he said.
Lauren Root is a local freelance writer.