Monday, January 18th | 5 Shevat 5781

December 31, 2020 6:37 am

The Abraham Accords — and Kaddish on the South Lawn

avatar by Karen Lehmann Eisner


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed display their copies of signed agreements as they participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords, normalizing relations between Israel and some of its Middle East neighbors, in a strategic realignment of Middle Eastern countries against Iran, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, US, September 15, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Tom Brenner/

Looking back at 2020, a lot comes to mind. What promised to be a strong year at its start turned out to be one of the most devastating in a century.

Not since the Spanish Flu did so many innocent people lose their lives to a disease. Nobody knows for sure how the COVID-19 virus began, but one thing we do know is that it traveled around the world at record speed, almost as quickly as a thought on social media. Families were separated. Parents could not see their loved ones. People died alone.

The virus was the headline-grabber until the sad death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Then we watched the demonstrations and riots. Suddenly, COVID-19 was no longer the only news item. We had more reason to mourn.

But through it all, there were positive things that surfaced as well. Simple things. Good things.

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People forced to stay home found creative ways to spend their days — sharing jokes online, reading, organizing, finally getting to projects they had put off for years. Friends became more important, and many new friendships blossomed. New business ideas grew. Families became closer.

Unfortunately, my husband’s father was dying in early June, in the midst of both national crises. Despite the risks, our family traveled to Pittsburgh — safely, and following local laws — to be at his bedside. Our need to have closure trumped the pandemic.

We were fortunate to have that special time together as a family, quarantining for several days and simultaneously saying goodbye to my father-in-law and my children’s grandfather. He died with all of us at his bedside. Many others — and their families — did not have that good fortune.

With the death of a parent, the Jewish faith requires a child to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish on a daily basis for 11 months. We all know the challenges of gathering a minyan these days. But my husband has managed — in a COVID-19 safe way– to keep the mitzvah of saying Kaddish throughout his period of mourning.

While all of this was going on, a historic peace between the UAE, Bahrain, and Israel was achieved, with the assistance of the Trump administration. This marked the first normalization of relations between Arab countries and Israel since the agreement with Jordan in 1994.

The first of the Abraham Accords were signed by the UAE’s Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the White House South Lawn on September 15, 2020.

We were fortunate to be invited to this historic event. When it was over, I realized that it was time for mincha, so I organized a group of men so my husband could recite the Mourner’s Kaddish.

I stood back and watched the scene. Only moments before, the world had seen the miracle of the signing of the peace accords. Yet, as I watched the men daven on the very same lawn the agreement was signed, I realized this was another historic moment.

This scene of both the signing of the Abraham Accords just moments before, followed by a minyan on the White House grounds, cemented not only a future for the State of Israel and the Jewish people, but concretized a spiritual moment that has endured centuries of Jewish life.

Being an amateur photographer, I quickly took out my phone and started filming and photographing this moment. My photos and this video went viral, and were my small addition to history.

We live in special times. I am glad to have been a small part of it.

Karen Lehmann Eisner, owner of Events by Karie, is an event planner and resides in both Washington, DC and New York City.

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