Thousands of Jews in the metropolitan area participated in hastily prepared programs last Tuesday evening to memorialize the three Israeli teenagers who were buried earlier in the day.
More than 700 people filled The Jewish Center on the Upper West Side and an estimated 500 more stood outside as a series of dignitaries — state and city political officials, communal leaders and clergy — expressed their anguish and anger over the murder of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah and Gilad Shaar.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) charged Hamas with “this unconscionable” act and asserted that the Palestinian Authority must break its ties with Hamas. If it refuses, he said, Congress should cut off all funding to the PA.
The audience applauded loudly, as it did later when New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver echoed that sentiment and said, “trying to tame savagery with reason is futility.”
The program, organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, UJA-Federation and the New York Board of Rabbis, included remarks from Manny Halberstam, a second cousin of Naftali Fraenkel, whom he recalled meeting three years ago when the slain youngster was 13 and “always full of joy.”
Nearly 500 people came to Bet Am Shalom in White Plains for a program put together by five synagogues, and about 200 people attended an outdoor service on the front lawn of the Suffolk Y JCC in Commack, L.I.
A consistent theme at each program was that while prayers for the safe return of the young men went unanswered, there was a measure in comfort in recognizing how Jews in Israel and around the world were connected in caring.
“In their name let us stand strong,” said Eric Goldstein on his first day as CEO and executive vice president of UJA-Federation of New York. He told the Manhattan audience that “the fate of all Jews around the world is interconnected.”
At the Westchester service, Rabbi Shmuel Greenberg of the Young Israel of White Plains, said: “One idea that gives us a bit of comfort is that we are really one. If one Jew hurts, we are so one that we will feel it.”
“Even in their death, they brought out something powerful,” said Rabbi Chaim Marder of the Hebrew Institute of White Plains. “Something changed in the Jewish people. There’s a sense of connectedness, a sense of oneness to the land of Israel.”
And Rabbi Gordon Tucker of Temple Israel Center said, “We owe Israel the loving commitment of unflagging involvement.”
At the Long Island service, which took place at the Suffolk Y in Commack, Rabbi Steven Moss, president of the Suffolk Board of Rabbis and co-chair of ELIJA (Eastern Long Island Jewish Alliance), which organized the service, noted that “this showing demonstrates that good people can come together and stand strong against the evil and injustice in our world.”
Rabbi Tuvia Teldon, Long Island director of Chabad-Lubavitch, asked those in attendance to keep alive the spirit of the teenagers by doing a good deed in their memory.
Editor Gary Rosenblatt, staff writer Stewart Ain and Westchester correspondent Merri Rosenberg contributed to this report.