Join Berkeley's Congregation Beth Israel 1630 Bancroft Way, Berkeley this evening for a memorial vigil for our people’s beloved sons, Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel, and Gilad Shaar, z”l. Mincha and maa’ariv services will take placed at 6:45 pm, followed by a memorial vigil led by Elishav and Ma’ayan Rabinovich.
Message from the beloved Rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel, Rabbi Cohen:
This morning our hearts are broken as our people’s beloved sons, Eyal, Naftali, and Gilad are laid to rest.
Like so many of you, for the past 18 days these boys have been in my heart, in my prayers and in my thoughts. Indeed, this very past Shabbat in shul, I urged all of us to try to identify with their pain, with their fears, and with their prayers. After all, they are our sons, they are our brothers, they are our family.
When news broke out yesterday, I was attending a Torah conference in New York City (where I will be for the remainder of this week). Many of the rabbis and scholars presenting at the conference came from Israel, many from towns in Gush Etzion specifically, many with personal connections to the families of the slain boys. During mincha, the afternoon prayer, many of us broke down in tears. Our deep feelings of profound loss, mourning, and helplessness, were simultaneously mitigated by feelings of unity, divine love, and communal support. They are our sons, they are our brothers, and we are a family.
In the late afternoon, I attended a prayer vigil that was organized by R. Avi Weiss and Yechivat Chovevei Torah in front of NYC’s Israeli consulate. During the vigil, R. Saul Berman, CBI’s founding rabbi, led us in a powerful recitation of psalms. Both he and Rabbi Weiss noted how unified Am Israel has been during this tragic period. Indeed, they are our sons, our brothers, and our family.
Immediately after the vigil, we marched to the UN, and as we made our way I suddenly realized that we were accompanied by hundreds of other individuals. We were not alone. The pain of this loss was shared across our entire people. Our moral outcry at the UN was simple: we asked that they view our Jewish boys as their own sons, as their own brothers, as their own family.
Tonight, our own CBI family will gather at the shul for a prayer and memorial vigil led by Elishav and Ma’ayan. Mincha services will be held at 6:45 pm, followed by ma'ariv at 7 pm, and the vigil. This will be our opportunity, among others, to express our pain and our prayers. This will be our moment, among others, to proclaim with all our hearts and all our soul and all our might: they were our sons, they were our brothers, they were our family.
I urge all of us to attend mincha and ma’ariv services throughout this week (and summer) as well as prior to tonight’s vigil. We are in desperate need of prayer, and the world is in desperate need of prayer as well.
As Am Israel joins in mourning, our thoughts and prayers are particularly with the families of Eyal, Naphtali and Gilad whose parents have been incredible teachers for our entire Jewish nation these past few weeks through their grace, faith and advocacy. May the Holy One comfort them among all of us, for we too are counted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
May the souls of Eyal, Naftali and Gilad, be bound in the chain of life. May their memory be for a blessing.
R. Yonatan Cohen