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JCF Blog

Honoring Our Heroes

Posted by: Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford on 2/7/2019
The loss to our community is palpable. As we mourn and grieve the passing of our heroes and visionaries, I can’t help but think about their lives, their struggles, their laughter and tears, their families, and lives well lived. Each obituary gives us the gift of a small glimpse of the highlights of complex and loving people who lived life with passion and commitment to Tikkun Olam. I always read these stories and wish I knew them better in their lifetimes. I wonder about the stories that will never be shared, about their grieving families, and about how, as a community, we honor and remember those that came before us with vision and passion. They took care to create a community for future generations with the faith that those next generations will do the same.  I wonder how we are taking on this same responsibility and building the next generation of heroes and visionaries.

In Avinoam Patt’s article in My Jewish Learning, “Zachor: Why Jewish Memory Matters”, he writes about the idea that Judaism is a religion built on a foundation of memory. Avi quotes the historian Yosef Haim Yerushalmi who noted that “the Hebrew word for remember, Zachor, is repeated nearly 200 times in the Hebrew Bible”, and that “the commandment to remember has been central to the survival of the Jews in dispersion over thousands of years.”

Indeed, with the growing interest in exploring family trees and roots, we are all learning about ancestors, cousins, and far away connections that we never would have imagined possible. It feels like six degrees of separation has turned into four, or even less than that. What I have come to realize is that we are all connected in some way. Whether it’s an actual familial connection, a strange coincidence of meeting, or a realization that goals, experiences and values are shared, the connections are clear when we give ourselves the space to realize them.  

We are obligated to remember. When we add honor to that act of remembering, we understand that we are links in this chain of Jewish past, present and future. As Avi stated, “Memory is essential to identity - so Judaism insists….To be a Jew is to know that the history of our people lives on in us”.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, what more can we do with this obligation to remember? In what way do we make it our call to action? We reach out to grieving families, we send love, heartfelt condolences, and make donations in memory of loss. How do we, as a community, ensure that their vision, courage and spirit are passed on to the next generation of Jewish heroes? As we each individually and collectively ponder and answer those questions, we honor the lives of those who came before us.

May the memories of our community heroes be a blessing.  

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Ira Yellen
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Thanks and welll said. When in doubt, I go back and remember my family, friends and business associates who passed away, but have provided meaning and guidance in my life. Without memories, humanity suffers.
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