Memory Speaks, Honor Stands Forth
When Four Star General Robert Magnus, USMC (retired) ascended the bimah of The Jewish Center in Manhattan to present the keynote address at the Jewish community Memorial Day 2011 commemoration, the respect of all gathered was, in its very silence, loud and clear. The General commanded the attention – from young Marines seated at full attention in the sanctuary pews, to the veterans of many of America’s wars, to the survivors of Ghetto horrors who came to honor their liberators. Noting that this Memorial Day presentation event was “only his third time on the bimah,” the General spoke of the responsibility and participation of Jewish soldiers in defending America throughout its history.
The May 30th gathering was organized by the Council of Young Jewish Presidents (CYJP), the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) and more than fifty additional synagogues and Jewish community organizations. The event, an official component of “Fleet Week” for the last four years, included an emotional eulogy for Pfc. Jacob S. Fletcher, killed in action in Iraq in 2003, spoken by his mother, Dorine Kenney. Kenny has created a legacy, “The Jacob’s Light Foundation,” honoring her son’s memory. Through its efforts, almost a half million pounds of gifts – foods, toiletries, items soldiers need – have been sent to men and women serving in all branches of the American military.
Daniel Oppenheim, Ceremony Chair, said “Through this event, the CYJP is honored to offer our community the opportunity to gather together to say thank you to the men and women who have sacrificed for our freedom and to honor those that defend our great country.”
Of the many moving moments during the ceremony, perhaps the most poignant were the reading of the words of the ancient Hebrew prayers, said in English, by uniformed Marines and a Navy Corpsman. Several clergy in full uniform including Rabbi Stephen Rein, Assistant Rabbi of the Park Avenue Synagogue, Chaplain and Captain in the Air Force Reserves, and Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, long term Army Chaplain participated in the ceremonies.
The memorial ended, but the evening was far from finished. For more than an hour, members of the community, joined by ready and able Marines, packed gift bags, wrote letters and donated cell phones and other items to soldiers now serving.