Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Creator of ‘30 Days’ Project aims to ease mourners’ grief and loss


Singer-songwriter Craig Taubman’s father-in-law, Eli Brent, died in October 2015. His mother-in-law, Charlotte Brent, died a few months later. Both were in their late 80s.

Taubman, 59, remembers that time as a “very intense period” for him and his wife, Louise.

“When this was happening, there was nothing else in our lives,” he said. “It was everything. Every article you read, every movie you see, you look for peace about mourning and loss.”

Over the course of about a year, Taubman reached out to an eclectic network of faith leaders and artists, asking for their thoughts on loss. Now, he is sharing his findings.

“30 Days, a Journey of Love, Loss and Healing” is a collection of 30 disc-shaped cards packaged in a tin container, each complete with a short inscription to help people deal with the blow of losing a loved one. For Taubman, the ruminations, which range from ironic and irreverent to comedic and even rabbinic, address the often confusing and subjective nature of grief.

“Someone will read one and say this is the most inspired piece of writing I’ve ever read,” he said. “Someone else will read the same thing and say it’s stupid. When it comes to loss, like with taste, there’s no empirical truth. You process it in a variety of ways. The mourning process can be — you just never quite know.”

Notable contributors include Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, “Tuesdays With Morrie” author Mitch Albom, Israeli musician Achinoam “Noa” Nini, as well as Taubman and his wife.

Taubman, well known in Los Angeles’ Jewish community for leading the musically themed Friday Night Live Shabbat services at Sinai Temple for 16 years through 2014, envisions his creation as a comforting gift to mourners.

“When you go to someone’s house, they don’t need another cake or flowers. Maybe some people do,” he said. “But if you give this as a gift to someone in mourning, it’s an easy access point. As a visitor, you can hand this to someone and read the cards with that person.”

Two months ago, after the project was finished, Taubman had 5,000 packages made. He has given away just over 1,000 and has sold more than 2,000 for $18 each when bought individually and $10 each when purchased in bulk of 10 or more. All of the proceeds — roughly $20,000 so far — benefit the Pico Union Project, a downtown Los Angeles multifaith cultural arts center and house of worship in the Pico Union neighborhood, just a few blocks from Staples Center. The Taubmans created the center four years ago when they purchased the oldest synagogue building in Los Angeles, the site of the original Sinai Temple, built in 1909.

To get the “30 Days” project off the ground, Taubman turned to Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Culver City, which agreed to underwrite the project, helping to cover initial printing and production costs. The park’s general manager, Paul Goldstein, said Hillside got involved because the project can help grieving families.

“While Jewish funerals are designed for the honor and dignity of the deceased, they are also created for the consolation and comfort of the bereaved,” Goldstein said. “I believed having the ability to extend this healing beyond the day of the funeral would be beneficial to every family who chooses Hillside.”

Goldstein said Hillside plans to soon include a “30 Days” package in the complimentary shivah/minyan kit it already provides families who have a funeral service at the park.

Craig Taubman

In 2012, Taubman spearheaded a project called “Jewels of Elul,” made up of 29 thoughtful insights —  one for each day of the Hebrew month of Elul  — dedicated to study and reflection about the High Holy Days. He sent them out as email blasts with quotes gathered from the likes of then-President Barack Obama; Holocaust survivor, author and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel; and singer Mary J. Blige.

Taubman described “30 Days” — a reference to the concept of “shloshim,” the 30-day mourning period in Judaism — as “an extension of that project.” However, this time he used Jewish voices, seeking to elucidate the Jewish perspective on mourning and showcase what it can teach others.

“I think the Jewish concept of mourning is extraordinary and beautiful,” he said. “Loss is hard. Death is hard. But it’s a natural part of life. The Jewish approach is unique. You have the seven intense days. After that you have 30 days to process less intensely. A year after, and you’re still processing. It’s an amazing thing that all people can learn from, but it’s a Jewish tradition. Judaism has something really valuable to give to society.”

Mourning girl

We Are All Mourners Now and Again by Rabbi Janet Madden


During the burning heat of summer, between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av— the saddest day of the Jewish calendar—Jews remember and mourn the Romans’ breach of the walls of Jerusalem, the sacking of the city and the destruction of the Second Temple. And we remember so much more: throughout history, the 9th of Av is the date on which we commemorate a series of profound Jewish losses.

 

We Are All Mourners

We Are All Mourners

This time of set mourning on the Hebrew calendar makes the Three Weeks a period of communal observance that is both specific and inclusive. It’s different from personal observances of Yahrzeits, the anniversaries of the deaths of beloved family members, or the four Yizkor services that provide public opportunities each year for mourning by those in our communities who have experienced bereavements. The Three Weeks, and especially their culmination, Tisha B’Av, mark specific traumatic experiences that resonate deeply within our collective Jewish historical consciousness. For me, moving mindfully through the Three Weeks is an annual reliving of mourning that tethers my mind and heart to Judaism in very particular ways.

 

I find deep comfort and meaning in communal mourning. When I am observing a Yarzheit, I feel set apart; my heart aches with the reminder of my personal loss even though I am saying Kaddish within the embrace of a loving community. It’s not that my heart aches less when we chant the Book of Lamentations—it’s that I am experiencing a different kind of loss. My heart aches differently. When we sit together on the floor and chant a text that is illuminated by a flashlight, we establish a special, intimate bond of shared grief with those who sit with us and with the entire Jewish community, past and present. For me, collectively connecting to our shared sadness reminds me that I am never alone.

Rabbi Janet Madden PhD was ordained by The Academy for Jewish Religion-California. She serves as the rabbi of Temple Havurat Emet and Providence Saint John’s Health Center and has been a student of the Gamliel Institute.

Rabbi Janet Madden

Rabbi Janet Madden

[Ed. Note: Rabbi Janet Madden has agreed to submit a series of entries for Expired And Inspired – watch for them to appear fairly regularly. — JB]

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GAMLIEL INSTITUTE COURSES

LOOKING FORWARD: UPCOMING COURSE

The Gamliel Institute will be offering course 2, Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah, online, afternoons/evenings, in the Fall semester, starting September 5th, 2017. This is the core course focusing on Taharah and Shmirah ritual, liturgy, practical matters, how-to, and what it means.

CLASS SESSIONS

The course will meet online for twelve Tuesdays (the day will be adjusted in any weeks with Jewish holidays during this course).

There is a Free preview/overview of the course being offered on Monday August 14th at 5 pm PDST/8 pm EDST. You are welcome to join us to decide if this course is one in which you would like to enroll. Contact info@jewish-funerals.org or  j.blair@jewish-funerals.org for information on how to connect to the preview webinar.

There will be an orientation session on how to use the platform and access the materials on Monday, September 4th, 2017, at 5 pm PDST/8 pm EDST online. Register or contact us for more information.

Information on attending the online orientation and course will be sent to those registered.

REGISTRATION

You can register for any Gamliel Institute course online at jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. A full description of all of the courses is found there.

For more information, visit the Gamliel Institute website, or at the Kavod v’Nichum website. Please contact us for information or assistance by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or phone at 410-733-3700.

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DONATIONS:

Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Gracuates courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, both c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).

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MORE INFORMATION

If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org.

You can also be sent a regular email link to the Expired And Inspired blog by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute, courses planned, and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.

RECEIVE NOTICES WHEN THIS BLOG IS UPDATED!

Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.

____________________

SUBMISSIONS ALWAYS WELCOME

If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.org. We are always interested in original materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.

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Prayeng man

When Prayer is Not Enough by Rabbi Janet Madden


Dying as Part of Life

In How We Die, surgeon and author Sherwin Nuland wrote: “We die so that the world may continue to live. We have been given the miracle of life because trillions upon trillions of living things have prepared the way for us and then have died—in a sense for us. We die, in turn, so that others may live. The tragedy of a single individual becomes, in the balance of natural things, the triumph of ongoing life.”

One of Nuland’s aims was to disabuse his readers of the notion of death with dignity; he wanted to point out that in fact death is messily undignified. But as a rabbi who has worked as a hospice chaplain and who is currently working as a hospital chaplain, I find these words and thoughts beautiful, even inspirational.  Although I am a well-schooled layperson in terms of the dying process and its toll on the body, the blessing of my work is that I am not confined to care only for the body.

I have attended three deaths in the past three days, and I’ve been pondering Nuland’s words as I encounter the mysterious and mystically liminal moments of life’s sacred portals: birth and death. I know and accept the facts: everything that lives, has ever lived and will ever live will die. This reality unfurls like a news crawl in the back of my brain while I am offering prayers and blessings for newborns and their parents; these words come always to the forefront of my mind as I attend a death.

The Personal Impact

But for a woman who is sobbing petitionary prayers in a hallway outside an ICU room as a rapid response team attempts to revive her husband or for a man who seems to physically shrink day by day as he sits at the bedside of his wife, clinging to hope that a test result that will lead to a miraculous reversal of her decline, the truth that life ends holds no beauty and is not assuaged by a sense of the universal.

The learning curve for those who put their faith in the human body (“He’s always been a fighter,” “She’s so incredibly strong”) or medical knowledge (“There must be something else you can do—another test—something?”) is excruciatingly steep. Even for those who accept that life is ending and for those who find comfort in prayer and ritual, there is profound shock in coming to the moment when the veils between the worlds thin and the irrevocable divide between life and death manifests.

In addition to the death itself, there are the after-shocks. Before the bereaved become mourners, in the first moments and hours when they are confronting the painful reality of loss, they are plunged into the business of death. The newly-bereaved must sign a release form for the body, observe a time limit that dictates how long they can stay with the body in the hospital room, make decisions about the disposition of the body, notify family and friends and answer questions about when and how death occurred and begin to make plans what comes next both for the deceased and for themselves. If the newly-bereaved are particularly unfortunate, they must also deal with learning that someone has posted the news of the death on facebook within minutes of being informed of the death, thus making public what has not yet had a chance to be communicated within the family.

Prayer is not enough

In these moments, prayer–no matter how beautiful, how sublimely profound, how potentially comforting–is not enough. Those of us who midwife the souls of the dying must transition to the things of olam ha zeh–this world. We must tend to the psycho-spiritual-emotional and physical needs of the living. It is not good enough to finish a Viddui, the final confession, and express our condolences. It is not good enough to ask the newly-bereaved “What can I do for you?” or “What do you need?” Shock and grief are paralytics. This is another liminality– the “sinking-in” time, the moments when families begin to grasp how this death has forever changed their lives. The time just after a death parallels the midrashic moment at the Sea of Reeds when G-d tells Moshe that there is a time for prayer and a time for action. The liminality of this time demands that clergy must wade into the swirling murkiness of shock and grief and position ourselves as comforters and guides, sometimes reassuring families that yes, their family member really is dead, sometimes simply standing by to bear witness to the tears, anger, endearments and reassurances that emerge.

The Role of Chaplain

Clergy cannot shelter behind prayerful words. What we can best offer is our calm and consistent presence, both spiritual and physical. Unless families request that we leave, we should stay with them until they and we discern that it is time for us to leave. Whether we are educating the family about the after-death care of their family member or listening to stories about the deceased or calling the mortuary on the family’s behalf or fetching tea or a blanket or waiting with the family until the mortuary transportation arrives or making sure that their parking is validated, what the newly-bereaved most need is to be cared for, to be reassured that for those of us who routinely deal with death and dying, the death of their family member is not commonplace. No matter the specific configurations and complications of their relationships, death changes things. Whether families self-identify as observant, religious, spiritual but not religious, or non-believers, they want and need to see the death of their family members as something more than a biological inevitability.

I have the same need. For me, attending deaths and tending to the needs of families offer uniquely sacred opportunities to connect with other humans, to witness the rawness that is unleashed from broken hearts, to come tantalizingly close to being as fully human as I am able to be, to be in awe again and again.

Rabbi Janet Madden PhD was ordained by The Academy for Jewish Religion-California. She serves as the rabbi of Temple Havurat Emet and Providence Saint John’s Health Center and has been a student of the Gamliel Institute.

Rabbi Janet Madden

Rabbi Janet Madden

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KAVOD v’NICHUM CONFERENCE

Registration for the 15th North American Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference, June 18-20, in San Rafael, California, is still open.

Our conference will have intensive workshops on Introduction to Taharah, Infection Control, Communicating about difficult Taharot, Modifying Taharah, Taharah Stories as well as exploring traditional Taharah liturgy, Navigating Taharah Liturgy – A Play, and Taharah liturgy in Maavar Yabbok.

We’ll have an exciting series of workshops on Jewish cemetery issues, including Green Cemeteries, Cremation, Perpetual Care Fund Investments, Record Keeping and Acquiring New Cemetery Property.

What’s different this year is an evolving theme – expanding the work of the Chevrah Kadisha and the Jewish Cemetery by encouraging conversation about end of life plans with the Conversation Project; end of life decision-making with Dr. Jessica Zitter, and communicating about how we die with Dr. Dawn Gross.

There’s much more – see our preliminary conference program.

Consider a Sunday morning pre-conference field trip to Gan Yarok – an environmentally conscious Jewish Green Cemetery.

Sunday afternoon from 2-5, Sam Salkin, Executive Director of Sinai Memorial Chapel, will facilitate an intensive session on starting & managing a community funeral home. Let us know if you are interested in this session. Attendance is by advance reservation only.

Tuesday afternoon after the conference Sinai Memorial Chapel will facilitate a tour of Gan Shalom Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery with an interfaith section. Again, let us know if you are interested – Attendance by advance reservation only.

And there is an extension to the conference! Gamliel Institute students, and others by approval, can remain for an additional day to participate in the Gamliel Institute Day of Learning. We will have three extraordinary teachers presenting on a variety of texts and concepts that are of interest. This is a fantastic opportunity to study with some of the very best instructors in a small group setting during a twenty-four hour period. Students, contact us to RSVP; if you are not a Gamliel student, contact us to seek approval of the Dean to attend.

Register for the conference now.

We have negotiated a great hotel rate with Embassy Suites by Hilton, but rooms are limited; please don’t wait to make your reservations. We also have home hospitality options – contact us for information or to request home hospitality. 410-733-3700, info@jewish-funerals.org

Questions? Email info@jewish-funerals.org or call 410-733-3700.
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TASTE OF GAMLIEL

In 2017, Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute are again sponsoring a six-part “Taste of Gamliel” webinar series. This year’s topic is From Here to Eternity: Jewish Views on Sickness and Dying.

Each 90 minute session is presented by a different scholar.

The June 25th session is being taught by Dr. Laurie Zoloth, well known author, teacher, and scholar.  

Taste of Gamliel Webinars for this year are scheduled on January 22, February 19, March 19, April 23, May 21, and June 25. The instructors this year are: Dr. Dan Fendel, Rabbi Dayle Friedman, Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow, Rabbi Richard Address, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, and Dr. Laurie Zoloth.

This series of Webinar sessions is free, with a suggested minimum donation of $36 for all six sessions. These online sessions begin at 5 PM PDST (GMT-7); 8 PM EDST (GMT-4).

Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions, and will also receive information on how to access the recordings of all six sessions.

The link to register is: http://jewish-funerals.givezooks.com/events/taste-of-gamliel-2017.

More info – Call us at 410-733-3700 or email info@jewish-funerals.org.    

Click the link to register and for more information. We’ll send you the directions to join the webinar no less than 12 hours before the session.

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GAMLIEL INSTITUTE COURSES

LOOKING FORWARD: UPCOMING COURSE

Gamliel Institute will be offering course 2, Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah, online, afternoons/evenings, in the Fall semester starting September 5th, 2017.

CLASS SESSIONS

The course will meet on twelve Tuesdays (the day will be adjusted in those weeks with Jewish holidays during this course). There will be an orientation session on Monday, September 4th, 2017.  Register or contact us for more information.

REGISTRATION

You can register for any Gamliel Institute course online at jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. A full description of all of the courses is found there.

For more information, visit the Gamliel Institute website, or at the Kavod v’Nichum website. Please contact us for information or assistance by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or phone at 410-733-3700.

____________________

DONATIONS

Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organizations, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).

___________

MORE INFORMATION

If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org.

You can also be sent an email link to the Expired And Inspired blog each week by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.

RECEIVE NOTICES WHEN THIS BLOG IS UPDATED!

Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.

____________________

SUBMISSIONS ALWAYS WELCOME

If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.org. We are always interested in original materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.

_____________________

 

Israelis mourn after a year of increased attacks


As Israel marked its traditional day of mourning for fallen servicemen on Yom HaZikaron, the Day of Remembrance on April 22, in a far corner of Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, an intimate ceremony for victims of attacks was underway. Mourners packed elbow-to-elbow under beige tents, each with a story of loss.

“He was kidnapped at the entrance to Jerusalem on his way to turn in his military uniform. It was supposed to be his last day,” an Israeli-American who lives in Jerusalem said of a close friend killed in 1994 at the age of 24. “Later they found his tefillin bag laying on the side of the road. Three days later they found his body,” she said. 

For some, it was their first time attending the commemoration for victims of attacks. “We feel a human connection,” said Sara Halevi, 23, a resident of the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem where five people were killed in a synagogue in November 2014 when two Palestinians yielding knives attacked worshippers. The murders were gruesome and shook HaLevi, who usually attends Israel’s main event, a military ceremony held hours earlier, also on Mount Herzl, honoring fallen soldiers.

Indeed, Israelis have had a rockier year than most since the close of the second Intifada. Twenty-five have been killed since April 2014, the last such commemoration, a stark increase from the six killed in attacks in 2013, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared the story of his personal loss, the death of his older brother Yonaton (Yoni) Netanyahu, killed in 1976 during Operation Entebbe, an Israeli rescue mission of hostages held by Palestinian militants who had hijacked an Air France plane. “It was the worst moment of my life, besides one other moment, seven hours later, after a tortuous nightlong journey, when I walked up the path leading to the house of my mother and father,” the Prime Minister said.

While Netanyahu spoke, thousands of Israelis gathered at the gravesites of their deceased relatives. Mount Herzl is also Israel’s flagship army cemetery, and on this day it was a sea of grief. In every direction, hundreds sat on small plastic chairs next to headstones. Others placed small rocks beside the graves, a traditional Jewish ritual.

“They recruited him to the infantry when he arrived, and he never came back. We don’t know what happened to him,” Diane Alice, 69, said of her late husband. At just 22, she was left to raise three children under the age of four when her husband was killed. The couple had emigrated from Morocco to Israel that same year.  Attending the official army ceremony, “It unifies you with all of the other families,” said Alice who traveled from Haifa for the memorial with her now-grown children.

On Tuesday night, at the sundown start to the commemorations, President Reuven Rivlin gave an inclusive eulogy in a torch-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. He honored the latest victims and noted “Jews and non-Jews, lone soldiers and new immigrants” alike were killed in a series of attacks that followed Israel’s summer war in Gaza. The deceased included two Druze police officers who were slain while on-duty.

“Death struck at the door of many, regardless of their religious beliefs. No camp was left untouched by death,” the president said.

That same night in Tel Aviv, some 5,000 people poured into a stadium at the north of the city to honor both Israeli and Palestinians victims of the conflict in an alternative commemoration. Combatants for Peace, an organization founded by former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants hosted a testimony reading by family members of the victims.

“In all of this darkness, I suddenly understood, there was meaning hiding everywhere,” Iris Segev said from the stage, recounting how joining up with bereaved Palestinian families helped her grieve after her son Nimrod Segev was killed during the Second Lebanon War, in 2006.

Palestinian Yasmine Istaye, 27, from the village of Salem near Nablus, read from braille, explaining she is nearly blind from an eye disorder. “I can feel the energy of thousand who want to be together.” A settler killed her father in 2007.

At Combatants for Peace’s first commemoration 10 years ago, just a few hundred attended. This time around, the hall was filled beyond capacity. It was the largest memorial in Tel Aviv. Still, traditionally, Yom HaZikaron is about remembering soldiers who lost their lives while in the Israeli army. Their deaths are viewed as a sacrifice to the existence of the state of Israel. In that sense, Tel Aviv’s memorial, which rejects that narrative and casts soldiers’ deaths as victims in a political conflict, evoked shock and anger from many.

Segev’s husband and her other son would not attend, opting for the state military ceremony headed by Netanyahu. Outside, around 20 protested. They yelled racial epitaphs at the attendees as they entered and exited the front doors.

Back inside the venue, in a prep room, the two men who founded the joint memorial told the Journal how each of their daughters had died from violence in the conflict. 

“I lost my 14-year old daughter in a suicide bombing on the fourth of September 1997,” Rami el-Hanoun, 65, said of Samadar el-Hanoun.

For el-Hanoun, joining Combatants for Peace “opened a whole new world for me. I was 47 years old when I first met the Palestinians—every time I say that I am ashamed—deeply ashamed.” He added, “ever since then I have been hooked. It has given purpose and meaning to my life, a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It gives sense to the senseless killing of my daughter.”

By el-Hanoun’s side was Bassem Aramin, 45, a co-founder of Combatants for Peace, along with el-Hanoun’s son, Erik el-Hanoun. Aramin explained that before he started the organization, he spent his late teens and early twenties incarcerated after he joined up with a group that tossed two grenades at Israeli soldiers. In jail he had a change of heart.

“We decided to let down our weapons because we discovered that we wanted to kill each other to achieve the same thing, peace and security—of course each one from his point of view. But the result is the same result. We are dying. We are suffering, both of us,” Aramin said.

Two years after their 2005 start, disaster struck. Israeli border police killed Aramin’s 10-year old daughter, Abir Aramin. She was a bystander to a confrontation in Anata in the West Bank.

“We ran to the hospital to sit by her bed, and for me it was like losing my daughter for the second time. I was completely devastated” el-Hanoun said of Abir. At that point, the two families, one Israeli, one Palestinian “became, in fact, one family,” he said.

‘Martyr for Peace’


Flags of the United States and Israel draped the simple pine coffin of Marla Bennett, the 24-year-old student laid to rest on Monday, at a service that emphasized Jewish solidarity in the face of terrorism.

More than 1,500 mourners gathered in San Diego to bid farewell to Bennett, who was killed July 31 in the Jerusalem bomb blast that claimed seven lives at a Hebrew University cafeteria.

"Marla was one of Israel’s martyrs for shalom, for peace," said her rabbi, Martin S. Lawson of Temple Emanu-El, a Reform synagogue in San Diego.

Lawson was joined on the bimah by Conservative Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal, whose Tifereth Israel Synagogue hosted the service, and by Orthodox Rabbi Danny Landes, who heads the Pardes Institute of Religious Studies where Bennett had studied in Jerusalem. Dignitaries from both countries paid tribute, including U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego); Terri Smooke, Gov. Gray Davis’ special liaison to the Jewish community; Tzvi Vapni, the deputy consul-general for Israel in Los Angeles, and Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Under tight security, with camera crews from nearly a dozen news stations, as well as reporters and photographers from various newspapers and wire services present, there may have been a temptation to make the hour-long funeral service more political than at times it was.

But the rabbis, cantorial soloist Myrna Cohen of Temple Emanu-El, and Bennett’s boyfriend, Michael Simon, kept the focus on the life and values of Marla Ann Bennett.

"Marla packed goodness into every moment of her life," said Simon, who Lawson described as Bennett’s "intended." Only a week before the funeral, the couple had been in Jerusalem, making plans to meet each other’s families in San Diego and Long Beach.

Looking at the 1,500 mourners, Simon said, "This is just not the way it was supposed to be."

Simon described Bennett as a kind and giving person. When they had gone shopping in downtown Jerusalem for presents to bring home for her family, they met an elderly woman who needed help carrying her groceries. Of course, Bennett volunteered, he said.

"I have had an opportunity to love someone with the greatest intensity," he said, adding that he was proud to be loved back by such a person. He read a letter in which Bennett wrote to him, "you bring so much happiness into my life…. Thank you for pushing me to make good decisions. We make a good team. I love you."

After his eulogy, Simon was accompanied from the bimah back to the front row to join the people who could have been his in-laws: Linda, Michael and Lisa Bennett, Marla’s parents and sister.

Lawson delivered the main eulogy, in which he painted a portrait of a girl-turned-woman whose joy and goodness were infectious inspirations to others.

When Bennett had her bat mitzvah 11 years ago, Lawson said, she was determined "to dig" beneath the Torah portion she read.

Remarkably, in light of what happened to her in the Hebrew University cafeteria, Bennett had understood that even though a person might live a holy life, and follow the mitzvot, there was no connection between that and what might happen to that person in the physical realm, Lawson said.

Following her first trip to Israel, with her mother, Bennett spoke at her Torah confirmation about her Judaism. "She spoke of her love for JCA Camp Shalom [in Malibu], of volunteering to help others in the community as part of Jewish teachings and then she said: ‘Have you ever been somewhere with others, just thinking, this is all so right? I believe Judaism has created this feeling … in my life. Judaism is the reason I feel so close to people thousands of miles away in Jerusalem that I’ve never even met. This religion has created such a strong bond, I think it is incredible.’"

As a teenager, she was active in United Synagogue Youth (USY). Lawson said after one Havdalah service celebrated with fellow USYers in La Jolla, "Marla felt a spiritual change in her life and knew she wanted more."

In the past two years, since Bennett returned to Israel to study in a joint program offered by the Hebrew University and the Pardes Institute, "Marla became more Jewishly observant," Lawson said. "She would not drive on Shabbat, so this became an opportunity for Marla and her dad to take long walks together and visit as they wandered through the neighborhood."

"It is also possible that walking was far better for her and others, since I am told that for Marla, driving was not her forte," Lawson’s remarked, and laughter broke through the grief of her friends, seated throughout the sanctuary.

Many of the friends Bennett had made from all her myriad activities attended the funeral.

"Death is a funny thing," Ori Blumenfeld told The Journal. "You spend your life meeting people every day, but the one day that everyone that you ever met and/or life you touched gathers in a room — you aren’t there to see that," said Blumenfeld, who had done junior year abroad with Bennett at Hebrew University and senior year at UC Berkeley. He said that "pretty much the entire junior year abroad class showed up" to pay their respects. Although it was not the way they would have chosen to have a reunion, he said, "Marla would have loved to have seen all of those people yesterday."

"Marla had no enemies, she was that respected and loved….She loved life and the people it included."

Lawson said that after graduating from Patrick Henry High School, where she had been a member of the student council and a cheerleader, Bennett attended UC Berkeley where she chose to live in the Berkeley Bayit, a Jewish student housing co-op.

"She arrived at college not having a clue about cooking, not even about the names of most vegetables," Lawson related. "Patiently she learned and soon became a great cook, preparing meals for her housemates and later, incredible Shabbat dinners in Jerusalem for eight to 10 people without any stress.

"While living in Israel, Marla collected clothing to be distributed to poor Arabs and Jews. Her concern for the plight of the homeless stretches back to her teenage years when she fed the hungry here in San Diego at St. Vincent de Paul. Friends told me how she was a ‘take charge’ person who made you want to help her because you knew it would be fun."

Landes, her teacher and mentor from Pardes, spoke of the biblical injunction against destroying a fruit tree, even in time of war because it provides not only nourishment, but shade and comfort.

"Our Marla was this beautiful tree often in an arid desert of scorched relations," he said.

"Everyone who knew her wished to be under those branches and there was room for all of us."

Landes said he just learned that Bennett used to help a woman in Jerusalem shop, clean and generally make certain that everything was all right.

"It takes 4,000 years of Judaism to produce a person like this," Landes said. "This is what Judaism is all about."

Donations in the name of Marla Bennett can be made to:
Student Israel Travel Program, Temple Emanu-El, 6299 Capri Drive, San Diego, CA, 92120; and Israel Social Service Fund, Jewish Community Foundation, 4950 Murphy Canyon Road, San Diego, CA 92123.

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