Remembrance Day: When Israel, Diaspora Jews can unite through empathy - opinion

There are many examples of English-speaking parents who chose to unite the Jewish people through their loss and pain, showing the world how each attack is a loss felt by the entire Jewish people.

 ONE FAMILY holds a ceremony on Remembrance Day, last year in Jerusalem. (photo credit: ONEFAMILY)
ONE FAMILY holds a ceremony on Remembrance Day, last year in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: ONEFAMILY)

“Think of small ideas to make the world a better place and not wait for tragedy to inspire you to do so.” – Rabbi Leo Dee, husband of Lucy Dee and father of the two young sisters, Maia and Rina Dee, brutally murdered earlier this month by terrorists.

Rabbi Leo Dee and his children got up from a difficult week of shiva on Wednesday. With hundreds of visitors a day, busloads of seminary and yeshiva students, international political figures – including a visit from Reza Pahlavi, crown prince of Iran – coming to show support and give comfort, a team of volunteers was mobilized to manage the crowds, the press, food deliveries and more.

A singular figure in the intensity of his loss and the depth of the personal tragedy, Rabbi Dee has inspired – in his articulate native English – the entire world with his faith; sharing messages of strength, and positivity, while asking people to do a good deed and perhaps even step out of their comfort zone, in memory of Lucy, Maia, and Rina. So many have remarked that they visited to give comfort and found themselves comforted by his words.

This communal way of mourning is both mundane for Jews who observe the shiva mourning period and unique and remarkable in the context of the greater world. Sadly, Israel has seen its share of unfathomable tragedy, with 31 people murdered in terror attacks in the last eight months, including siblings Asher and Yaakov Paley, ages 8 and 6, in February; Hillel and Yagel Yaniv, ages 21 and 19, in February; and visiting American student Elan Ganeles in March.

There are many examples of English-speaking parents who chose to unite the Jewish people through their loss and pain, their ability to give those outside of Israel a glimpse into how much each attack, each murder, and each broken family, is a national loss. It is a wound felt by the entire Jewish people, but more importantly, today, it is a tragedy that should unite us to work together to heal and build the nation.

 RABBI LEO Dee embraces Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Dee family shiva at their home in Efrat, on Sunday.  (credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90) RABBI LEO Dee embraces Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Dee family shiva at their home in Efrat, on Sunday. (credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)

SINCE 1948, 3,198 people have been murdered by terrorists.

What perhaps the Jewish world fails to appreciate is that for every one of these heroes, there are thousands of heartbroken Israeli parents, children, spouses, and siblings who were suddenly thrust into a dark hole of grief and injustice, and are trying to find a reason and a way to continue life from a place of light and hope.

They too want the world to learn how remarkable their loved one is; was. They too want people to be kinder, more loyal, to love more, and to anger less.

They want people to respond to the darkest displays of humanity by bringing more light into the world through displays of sheer goodness. They just don’t have the words, the ability in English, and often the wherewithal to tell you.

Remembrance Day: When Jews in Israel and abroad can unite through empathy

Monday evening marks the start of Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and Victims of Terrorism. Israel’s memorial day. It is a day observed by every Israeli, not just by those who lost a loved one in the line of duty or to terror. Remembrance Day (Yom Hazikaron) is a national day of mourning, an opportunity to focus exclusively on the price we have paid – and continue to pay – “to be a free people in our own land.”

Remembrance Day is also a singular opportunity for Jews outside of Israel to step into this very reality, unite with the people living in Israel and truly express unity through empathy. Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, senior rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue, flew from Florida to Israel this week to support and bring messages of condolence and love from his entire community to the Dee family. Empathy differs from sympathy, he told the Efrat community, in that empathy is the act of running over to your fellow man, seeing the heavy load he carries, and making the choice to carry it with them.

Empathy – this is the essence of One Family, as we work with individuals who have experienced unfathomable loss and pain, victims of terror and their families. Together, we help the bereaved and the wounded try to reclaim their lives by “helping them carry their load,” providing emotional, financial, and rehabilitative assistance over the long term.

ONE FAMILY’S “Together in Jerusalem” ceremony on Remembrance Day is unique, as we bring together terror victims and their families who choose to openly share their personal experiences of loss with their new extended family, the family of all of those who’ve also lost loved ones at the hands of terrorists, and with a community of people who they know empathizes with them, and who they’ve seen jump to help them “carry their load.”

I invite you to join the ceremony via live stream. And while it may not be easy or convenient to interrupt your day in another timezone to watch an event that marks death, loss, heartbreak and pain, I guarantee that it is not only the best way to truly understand and empathize with those living in Israel but it will leave you uplifted –  with more hope, more light, and inspired to bring more positivity and kindness into the world.

They’ve agreed to allow us to stream this ceremony and share it with the world. They know it is important, and they appreciate the opportunity it gives to honor the memory of the brother that is not there to give them dating advice, the mother who missed their bat mitzvah, the father whose seat at the head of the Passover Seder table now sits empty.

They want you to get to know the people they love and long for, to give them just one more kiss, before they were gone. They invite you to see the load, to know the load, and to choose to also help carry it just a little bit.

Five minutes of tuning in – during a lunch break, in New York, or for half an hour with your family – will change your experience of Israel, wherever you are. It will change your appreciation for Israel’s Independence Day celebrations which begin immediately afterward. It may fill you with sadness, but you will come away inspired by the goodness that effuses from their souls.

Why watch? Because experiencing how and when Israelis of every stripe come together as one will bring us to the realization of how much more we, the Jewish people, really have that unites us more than divides us. Because when you see first-hand the power of love and support, it helps us remember how much of that power we each possess to potentially improve the world.

Choose to watch powerful displays of active love and work that support every Jew equally rather than divisive images of political protests. Yes, you will be reminded that struggles, pain, loss, and anguish will always be with us. You will also be reminded, however, that we, the Jewish people, have each other. We are One Family. This is our ultimate secret weapon.

You have a chance to be a part of that; to experience it yourself; to virtually join hands with all the people of Israel as we embrace our loss, embrace our pain, and carry the load together, so that we can move forward to celebrate our independence, together.

Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this remarkable part of the Jewish experience with us, united as One Family. It’s one small way to leave your comfort zone and emerge, inspired to “make the world a better place.”

The writer is a Canadian philanthropist and businessman now living in Israel. He is chairman of, the primary privately funded organization that rehabilitates, reintegrates, and rebuilds the lives of Israel’s thousands of victims of terror.

The OneFamily ceremony can be viewed in person in Jerusalem, or on the OneFamily YouTube channel: