Congregation Anshai Torah celebrated Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Reunification Day, Wednesday, May 28, with music and meaning at its start, core and end.
With Kol Rina, or “Voice of Joy,” the Congregation’s men’s a capella choir at the helm, more than 200 guests tapped their toes, clapped their hands and sang along, honoring the day June 6, 1967, the 28th of Iyar, when Israeli soldiers victoriously recaptured the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordanian control during the Six Day War. Messages of “Am Yisrael Chai,”(“Israel shall live,”) and “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav,” (“Jerusalem of Gold”) heralded loud and strong.
“Tonight we stand with Israel with pride, reverence and admiration for all she stands for,” said Congregation Anshai Torah’s Rabbi Stefan Weinberg who thanked Bruce Feldman, Randi Gerber-Katz and Melanie Kuhr Murphy, co-chairs of the evening’s celebration, as well as the members of Kol Rina for their “talent, dedication and energy — tonight, and always in our shul.”
“We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, never to part from it again,” recalled Weinberg, the words of the former Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan. “To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour — and with added emphasis at this hour — our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights. We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other peoples’ holy places, and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others, in unity.”
“That sense of unity, cannot be forgotten or taken for granted,” said Weinberg, pointing to the plight of Alan Gross, a relative of Anshai Torah members and truly family to the congregation. Gross is a 65-year-old American citizen, imprisoned in Cuba since 2009, arrested for his work on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development to increase Internet access and connectivity in small communities across Cuba. “To this day, our spirit remains humbled.”
As Kol Rina offered the prayer “Acheinu,” Weinberg invited all to pray for Gross, and others who are deprived of their dignity.
Kol Rina participants were Harry Benson, Roy Erlich, Bruce Feldman, Ron Friedman, Joel Futterman, Mervin Ginsburg, Howard Goodman, Bruce Katz, Matt Kurtzman, Jeff Romick, Stuart Rosenfeld, Rob Shrell, Jim Schwartz and Rabbi Weinberg.
Participating in the evening were Tzofim members. Tozfim is an organization of about 70 Israeli-born scouts who meet each Sunday with Congregation Anshai Torah as its base. “The Tzofim is about instilling the culture and holidays of Israel into youth living away from there,” said Meshi Levi, a founding Dallas-area Tzofim scout member, which led a flag processional, also dancing in the aisles. A Liberty High School senior, Levi added, “Jerusalem is an important city. Because it’s our home, it’s an honor to celebrate even though we’re far away.”
Featured during the evening was Elias Saratovsky, the Southwest regional director for AIPAC. “There isn’t another holiday, in any tradition that celebrates a city this way,” said Saratovsky, the grandson of four Holocaust survivors and the son of Russian immigrants. He was introduced by Anshai Torah member and AIPAC executive committee and national council member Manuel Rajunov.
“Israel and the Jews have survived, and we have thrived,” said Saratovsky. “This is not the end of the story, as everyday we continue to write new chapters, and we must rededicate ourselves to Israel, to the U.S.-Israel relationship. If we do, we will allow our children, grandchildren and future generations to continue to write their own chapters.”
Weinberg introduced the lyrics of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” identifying its lyricist and composer as Yip Harberg and Harold Arlen, the sons, respectively, of Russian Jews and a cantor. The song, long beloved as featured in the “Wizard of Oz,” is a reflection of Jews who wished to “fly high above the chimney tops,” in a day when chimney tops truly referred to the caps on the crematoriums of the death camps, and “over the rainbow,” the land of Israel.
“The lyrics are embedded in the Jewish experience,” said Weinberg, noting that at this year’s Oscar Awards, singer Pink, the daughter of Judith Kugel, an Ashkenazi Jew, performed the song. “Many of the Jews of Europe weren’t able to ‘fly,’ to ‘escape.’ As we stand here, we are living, like Theodor Herzl said, ‘if you will it, it is no dream.’ ”
Submitted by Deb Silverthorn on behalf of Congregation Anshai Torah.