Marking A Yahrtzeit With A Focus On The Future
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Marking A Yahrtzeit With A Focus On The Future

An alternative commemoration with an eye toward sustainability.

Amy Sara Clark writes about politics and education. A Columbia Journalism School graduate, she's worked at CBS News, The Journal News, The Jersey Journal, Mom365, JTA and Prospect Heights Patch. She comes to journalism from academia where she earned a master's degree in European History with a focus on Vichy France.

Amir Yechieli, an Israeli science teacher who designed the barrels, explains how they work at Hawthorne Elementary School in May 2017. ALEX FLAMHOLZ
Amir Yechieli, an Israeli science teacher who designed the barrels, explains how they work at Hawthorne Elementary School in May 2017. ALEX FLAMHOLZ

Though family yahrtzeits are usually observed privately, Beverly Luchfeld of Teaneck, N.J., wanted to mark the third anniversary of the passing of her husband, Jack Flamholz, with a public event that touched upon two of his passions: teaching about sustainability and showing Israel in a positive light.

She hopes that the evening she’s planned — “Emergency Response: Addressing Global Crises” — will do just that. The Sept. 22 event is designed to teach high school students and adults about what the Israeli aid organization IsraAID does in two separate programs.

Luchfeld chose IsraAID for her husband’s memorial because the organization incorporates water sustainability into many of its projects. (For example, after Hurricane Maria, IsraAID built a gravitational sand water filtration system in Barrio Real, a small rural community in Puerto Rico.)

“It combines Jack’s dream of teaching sustainability and also showing Israel in a positive light,” said Luchfeld, who designs modest women’s clothing. She called IsraAID’s work “an incredible mitzvah.”

“They’re going to places that are far away from home, it’s not a political issue, it’s purely humanitarian and for social justice,” she said.

Founded in 2001, IsraAID has done emergency rescue and recovery work in more than 50 countries, providing help with medical care, water, sanitation and education as well as other types of humanitarian aid.

For the teen program, participants will be divided into five groups, each of which will be given a post-disaster scenario they will have to respond to. Members of each group will work together to strategize how to allocate resources for the 30 days following the disaster.

The adults will listen to Navonel Glick, co-chief executive officer of IsraAID, talk about the organization’s humanitarian programs and the changing needs of communities hit by disasters.

After Flamholz died of pancreatic cancer in October 2016, Luchfeld and the couple’s three adult children, Eta, Avi and Bezalel, started the Jack Flamholz Water Sustainability Project in his honor. They chose the topic  after finding plans for such a project in Flamholz’s notes. Installed at Hawthorne Elementary School in Teaneck in May of 2017, the program uses an Israeli system of specially designed barrels. They are made of PVC and have pointed bottoms, providing a place for sediment to settle. Students let the sediment out each day by turning a spigot. The water runs through several pipes and barrels until it is clean enough to be used to water the school’s garden and flush the school’s toilets.

Luchfeld said she will consider the evening a success if it gets more people to become aware of IsraAID’s work, and she hopes the students will consider volunteering, now and as adults. “It would be great” if both students and adults “learn about the resources they should cherish and try to not waste them.”

“Emergency Response: Addressing Global Crises” will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22, at Congregation Rinat Israel, 389 W. Englewood Ave. in Teaneck. To register visit tinyurl.com/IsraAIDTeaneck.

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