1,000 attend New York memorial for Fogel family

Members of Jewish community gather for somber, tear-filled and at points fiercely indignant memorial for victims of Itamar terror attack.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein and students light candles 311 (photo credit: Courtesy Council of Presidents)
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein and students light candles 311
(photo credit: Courtesy Council of Presidents)
NEW YORK – In stark contrast to the prevalent mood of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Manhattan, members of the New York Jewish community gathered at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side for a somber, tear-filled and, at points, fiercely indignant memorial for the murdered Fogel family.
Five members of the Fogel family – including an 11-year-old, a four-year-old, and a three-month-old baby girl – were found murdered in their home in the West Bank settlement of Itamar last Friday night, after a terrorist broke in and stabbed them to death. Three children managed to escape the attack.
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Approximately 1,000 people attended the memorial in the full sanctuary of the Orthodox synagogue, organizers said, and at least 2,000 more followed the proceedings online. The memorial was sponsored by numerous American Jewish organizations, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Hillel and Hadassah.
Many in the audience were brought to tears in a collective expression of mourning and anger.
Conference of Presidents Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein said in his remarks that in part, he had organized the memorial out of his own profound sense of sadness, coupled with indignation at the barbarity of the crime and the inadequacy of the world’s response to it.
“The Fogel family were brutally murdered by the hands of barbaric, inhuman terrorists who planned and plotted this vile and evil act,” Hoenlein said. “Those responsible demonstrate the level of depravity that can only be compared to the worst of the Nazi horrors. This was an attack on the Fogel family and their community, but also on the state of Israel and the Jewish people.”
In front of pictures of the slain family members, Hoenlein demanded, “Of what were these innocents guilty?” Answering his own question, he responded, “They were Jews celebrating Shabbat.”
Hoenlein decried the international response to the murders, saying, “When the media shifts the focus from the perpetrator to the victim… when they denigrate the murdered to justify the murderer...
when they ignore and just put a small notice in the middle pages, then what price is there? Where is the outrage? Where is the indignation?” His outrage continued even into his introduction of Israeli Ambassador to the UN Meron Reuben: “Nowhere is the hypocrisy to which the Jewish people are subjected more visible than at the UN, where Israel is condemned and those who murder ruthlessly are forgiven and forgotten.”
Reuben did not address this point, but said that this was a “time for moral clarity” and that “all nations and decent people must clearly condemn these savage acts of terrorism, without attempts at justification or equivocation.”
Reuben also condemned what he called the “root cause of terror”: a “culture of incitement pervading Palestinian institutions that glorifies violence and martyrdom – and demonizes Israelis and Jews.”
Speakers from various Jewish institutions and organizations said there could be no rationalizations or attempts to justify the killings.
Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier, president of the New York Board of Rabbis and rabbi of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, asked forgiveness of the Fogels for what he termed the Diaspora communities’ inadequacies.
The press and “representatives of the socalled international community vilify and demonize, dehumanize, people like the Fogels – they were treated as criminals for... building beautiful lives in the heartland of our ancestral homeland,” Kermaier said. “Did we protest enough? Did we fight back strongly on their behalf?” Kermaier said it was up to the living to shoulder “the burdens and responsibility to keep them safe and to demand that they be treated by the world with dignity.”
In an illustration of support from the “community of faith,” Reverend Jacques DeGraff, pastor of the Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem, also spoke at the memorial.
“I’m here today because it is not enough for the friends of Israel to issue a statement,” DeGraff said. “There are some times when your witness must be personal and it must be articulate.”
DeGraff called the Fogels’ murder “a crime against humanity, and we must speak out, and we must speak with clarity, and we must stand up right now.”