Special Events: Memorial Day 2019

It had been a very rainy May but the time was ripe for our customary refreshing of the American flags at Adath Jeshurun Cemetery located in Allison Park.  Yes, the rain held off for the afternoon!  Excitement peaked with the checking in of Veterans and Board members.  Then, cars started arriving and middle schoolers poured out filled with enthusiasm for the annual CDS/Adath Jeshurun “Salute to Our Veterans.”  Teachers, parents and other adults were eager to begin.  Welcomes were exchanged as was the procedures for the afternoon including directions on how to respect the American flag…..never to touch the ground.   For more information on A.J.C. see www.adathjeshuruncemeterypgh.  

Of importance, Adath Jeshurun wanted to educate all on the procedures of a Military Army Funeral.  Students volunteered to do role-play being soldiers who called the orders, another who played “taps”, they were taught the proper manner to salute, the importance of presenting the American flag to the grieving family, the value of honor and respect to those who served our country and the value of community service especially for those who can no longer ask for help.  Soldiers escort the casket and the rabbi follows them.  CDS Middle School Social Studies teacher Chaim Steinberg was there to reinforce historic information including the fact that Decoration Day now Memorial Day as a holiday was started in our very own Boalsburg, PA by 3 women in 1868!

7th grader Daniel Berger wrote that not only does he do something that is nice and that everyone should do, but he feels obligated to do that.  This experience has provided him with many life lessons and shows the importance of small things even if you think it might be boring.

A tent had been erected to shelter chairs for three Veterans who represented WW II (Army – Code Gomberg), Vietnam (Army – Bill Aaronson) and 9-11 (Navy – Lauren DelRicci).   Students were grouped in 3 and given small segments of the cemetery to start the project.  One youth held a bundle of new flags, one held the old flags and one inserted a flag in each respective grave.  Adults accompanied each group.   Small groups enabled the youth to ask questions of veterans such as did you have different experiences within your units because you were Jewish?  What was it like to be Jewish in WW II as our boys were defending democracy while in the homeland of their forefathers?  Indeed, some relatives could still be there in concentration camps!  The groups rotated from conversations with veterans to back to refreshing flags to back to another veteran.

Jenny Jackson and Noa Solomon, both 7th graders and repeat attendees, felt privileged to hear their stories and was inspired by their bravery and courage in the war.  Jenny wants to come back to honor the Jewish Veterans who gave their lives in the World Wars and is proud to be a Jew and of her heritage. Noa realizes how fortunate she is to be living in the USA.

Abigail Naveh, had her first experience at AJC.  Her conversations with a veteran impacted her vision for tomorrow.  She realized how important it is to learn about other peoples past because they can change your prospective.  A veteran repeated “You can’t go being mad at the world.  You can’t do it!”  These were simple words, but yet something that she is going to hold onto.  Abigail, a 6th grader, noted that she left the cemetery eager to come back next year.

A moving personalized Memorial Service was prepared by CDS Director of Middle School Jewish Life and Learning – Allan Dalfen.  Additionally, a prayer was added to recognize a Holocaust survivor who had recently passed away and was associated with Adath Jeshurun.  

Katie Lieber has come to this event for 2 years.  Although she does not have family buried at A.J.C., she states that every single one in her family went into the military.  She comes to honour the people who did the same.  I go to place flags because I feel that’s my obligation.  Those people helped America.  They helped it thrive.  She feels she needs to pay her respects.  They let me grow up with chances and with a world where we can live in some peace.  I want to show them respect and that I am so thankful for what they did for America and for everyone.

Quiet blanketed the ridge looking down upon the oldest section of the cemetery as all students and adults lined it single file.  The first note of Taps was blown by one of the students and all slowly and respectfully raised their hands to salute and stiffly stood there at attention until the conclusion of the presentation. 

Lauren DelRicci, ex-Navy veteran summed up her interactions with the youth by stating that these youth will be attributes to America; they were respectful, disciplined and interested in their heritage and of the Jewish faith.  She felt honored herself to be part of the proceedings.  DelRicci stated that too often children are not aware of the sacrifices that have shaped our nation and created the very freedom we breathe every day.

The day ended putting a smile on everyone’s face as they clamored over donuts donated by our Sq. Hill sponsor Dunkin Donuts!  

             There is no way to fully express the emotional joys and gratification of doing a mitzvah!