Yom HaZikaron committee seeks names of those to be remembered

Annual observance is April 24 at Anshai Torah

Any time that a life is lost in the line of duty is, of course, a cause for inconsolable grief for families, friends and the entire community. Memorial Day is a legal holiday to honor lives lost in war. But imagine if we only honored those lost and there were no sales or an extra day to the weekend. That the TV and radio stations’ playlist was filled with sad, pensive songs and shows. A day for everyone to pause from their normal routine. In Israel, this Memorial Day, known as Yom HaZikaron, does just that and the Israeli community in Dallas makes sure to provide an annual ceremony that honors lives lost.

Each year the Yom HaZikaron committee, chaired by Ronit Ilan, spends months collecting names of soldiers or civilians killed protecting the Jewish homeland. The committee wants to honor the memory of all those lost and is making a public appeal for the names of other family members or friends who should be included.

Frank Gilford and Ari Weiss, both of blessed memory,  were killed in their 20s while serving in the Israel Defense Forces. These young men were Zionists who grew up in Dallas, served in the IDF and fell while protecting the State of Israel.

Frank, son of Gerre and Sam Gilford, of blessed memory, was raised in Dallas and graduated from Skyline High School. Of the many areas of study upon which Frank embarked, Israel and the study of the Jewish people became predominant. He was involved in Young Judaea, which fueled his love for Israel and Zionism including being on their Year Course program during the Yom Kippur War. He made aliyah several years later and lived in Jerusalem with his wife. As much as he immersed himself in all subjects related to Zionism he still wanted to build the country in a more pioneering way. So, 27-year-old Frank enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces in 1981. Sadly, two weeks before completing basic training, he was tragically killed as his group of recruits were marching alongside a road before dawn. He was given full military honors and laid to rest on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. Soon afterward, his family created the first college scholarship fund at the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation which assists local students who typified the life that Frank Gilford led, and are pursuing an education in Jewish studies either locally or in Israel. “My brother Frank was passionate about the State of Israel and the Jewish people. His legacy lives in the lives of all the students who have benefited from his scholarship to further their own educations and connections to their Jewish identity,” said his sister, Eileen Ladd, of Austin.

Staff Sergeant Ari Weiss, son of Rabbi Stewart and Susie Weiss, grew up in Dallas and attended Akiba Academy until his family immigrated to Israel in 1992. Whether he was at school, camp, yeshiva or army, Ari was admired for his good nature and genuineness. His army friends said he could be trusted at any time and in any situation. Ari often volunteered to remain at the base for Shabbat, so that his fellow soldier friends would be “off” and allowed to go home. When home from the army on leave, he almost did not sleep, as if he knew his time was limited and it was a shame to spend it asleep. Just a few weeks before his 22nd birthday, Ari was killed in a fierce gun battle in Nablus. His parents recently said, “In our limited glimpse of history, it would appear Ari lived a very short life. But in truth, his life is eternal, because he serves as a model and icon of bravery, commitment and devotion to Medinat Yisrael and all who loved him. The 17 children currently named after Ari are a living testimony to his influence. His presence continues to accompany us all…until we meet again.”

Rabbi Howard Wolk wrote in the TJP last fall to mark Ari’s 20th yahrzeit. “Susie and Rabbi Weiss educated Ari in the path of Torah, love of the Land and people of Israel and dedication. Ari, who was a member of our family and household in Dallas, dedicated himself to the Land of Israel. The initials of his name, aleph-yud, stand for Eretz Yisrael — the Land of Israel. The dedication that Ari had to others and to the State of Israel knew no bounds. The love of his family and friends for him is also without limitations.”

This annual Yom HaZikaron event will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, April 24, at Congregation Anshai Torah, 5501 Parker Road in Plano. It will include music, poems and poignant stories about lives lost. “The ceremony allows us to be part of something meaningful, to remember and feel at home. This ceremony bonds our culture, how we Israelis grew up and lets us share with our community, local organizations, clergy and our family that is Dallas’ Jewish community,” said Ronit Ilan, who served six years as an officer in the Israeli Air Force.

If a reader has a loved one who should be remembered on Yom HaZikaron, please email committee member Yael Katz at Yael.Katz@gmail.com.

In addition to Congregation Anshai Torah, Yom HaZikaron is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.

—Submitted by
Mona Allen

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