Remembering, honoring IDF’s lone soldier Steinberg, comrades

“I just want to say, Max was my best soldier, and I loved him so much, and to be with you is like closure for me. It’s something you can’t explain in words.”

But Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 1st Lt. Ohad Roisblatt did his best. He told an audience of about 90 people at Beth Jacob Congregation on Aug. 15 that he came to know Max Steinberg, the IDF lone soldier from Woodland Hills who was killed during an ambush in Gaza last year, as his commander in the Golani Brigade.

Roisblatt, an early 20-something who was wounded during the same battle that took Steinberg’s life, said he lost seven soldiers during the war in Gaza. He drew applause when he said he recently rejoined the IDF following a year of rehabilitation work.

His appearance at the Orthodox shul in Beverly Hills coincided with that of retired Israeli Maj. Gen. Elyezer Shkedy; Steinberg’s parents, Stuart and Evie; and more than 30 bereaved family members of Israeli soldiers. 

Stuart Steinberg spoke briefly during services while Shkedy provided the keynote. Serving as Beth Jacob’s Shabbat scholar-in-residence, Shkedy spoke on “The State of Israel and the Jewish People: It’s All About Optimism,” drawing upon a 33-year career in Israel’s air force, as well as his stint as CEO of El Al Airlines from 2010 to 2014, in his remarks. 

If people in the pews were hoping to hear the scholar-in-residence speak about the much-discussed Iran deal, they were disappointed; he left the controversial topic for a Q-and-A that occurred later in the day during a reservations-only luncheon. 

“I always take our enemies serious all the time. … We have to do all we can to prevent our enemies from having nuclear capabilities,” Shkedy said at the luncheon, where Israeli flags hung on the walls and blue and white tablecloths and napkins decorated the tables. “How do we do it? I don’t know.”

While discussing how seriously Israel takes its own security, Shkedy said El Al planes will soon be equipped with missile defense systems. 

Shkedy and Roisblatt appeared on behalf of the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization, which was established one year after Israel’s founding and works to increase public awareness of the plight of wounded soldiers and raises funds to help their rehabilitation. Shkedy is chairman of Friends of the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization.

The bereaved family members attended as part of a Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) program, which brought them to Los Angeles for a variety of events. Fred Gluckman, FIDF national board treasurer, delivered brief remarks on the delegation’s behalf during morning services. 

Several of the male members of the FIDF group, wearing military garb, helped carry the Torah around the sanctuary during services. The female members of the group looked on from the other side of a mechitzah. The FIDF group wrapped up its L.A. visit with an evening event in Calabasas on Aug. 17, according to a spokesperson for the group. 

Beth Jacob has been holding a variety of weekday and Shabbat events all summer long. The Saturday luncheon drew philanthropists Naty and Debbie Saidoff; Jacob Segal, executive board member of the Southern California Israel Chamber of Commerce; and Beth Jacob Rabbi Kalman Topp, who introduced Shkedy during the luncheon.

Activities extended into the evening with a meet-and-greet with Shkedy after Shabbat concluded. That event took place at the home of Lydia and Harry Weisman, according to Beth Jacob Associate Rabbi Adir Posy.

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