This event was partially sponsored by OK Kosher in memory of Harav Don Yoel Ben Harav Dov Ber OBM, Tamar Malka Bas Reb Yitzchak Rivka OBM, & Rivka bas Harav Don Yoel OBM.
On the first Motzei Shabbat of the month of Adar, Neshamos hosted a virtual evening of memorial and gratitude to mark one year since COVID has spread to the world. For the Jewish community, Purim is associated with the escalation of the virus, the start of quarantine and a steep shift in life as we know it. The event struck a balance between commemorating those we lost and recognizing the pain our community has endured while still being hopeful about the future. Another purpose of this event was to give thanks to the individuals and organizations who worked tirelessly, even putting themselves at risk of contracting COVID for the sake of helping others.
It is our deepest hope, and we trust in the A-lmighty that this turbulent period will end and give birth to a time when pain is but a memory and we are free to express ourselves without any hindrances both external and internal.
The evening was enhanced with heartfelt musical interludes by the Chassidishe Trio Aryeh Hurwitz, Shmuly Hurwitz and Zalmy Katz. Rabbi Simon Jacobson emceed the event, with the message of emerging from tragedy stronger than ever, he highlighted the sharp contrast between the charge to be joyous during Adar with the heaviness of recent events. He underscored that the power of Adar and Purim specifically, is that in the megillah Adar starts off in a grave, serious demeanor, yet the catastrophic fate was overturned giving way to great joy; the Purim story highlights the power of transformation, a day that was destined for genocide was overturned into miracles and joy. As Jews, we have the discipline of redeeming negativity so that it is purposeful. We remain steadfast despite challenges, and perhaps this in addition to reminiscing about the past losses, we will be able access even greater joy because of the pain.
The Rav of Crown Heights, Rabbi Yosef Braun, spoke about the importance of optimism and the power of thinking positively to impact results, a theme the Rebbe was passionate about. He also discussed how the Rebbe channeled the loss of his wife into the concept of the “living shall take to heart”, through the work of inspiration and joy. The neshamos we lost want us to show our simcha and optimism; despite what happened we still have bitachon. We must always be prepared for simcha. We can move through life exuding an aura of happiness, yet simultaneously proceeding with caution. We’ve seen heroic acts community wide on a communal and individual level; these people are beacons of light in times of darkness.
Dr. Eli Rosen then addressed the audience, encouraging each person to take care of themselves. He also explained that David Hamelech says, we cannot ask why tragedies occur, but we must demand Moshiach from Hashem. He then read a list of those who have passed away within the Crown Heights community in commemoration.
Dr. Norman Blumenthal, OHEL’s Director of Trauma, Bereavement and Crisis Response Team, discussed the importance of being in touch with the full range of our emotions; not to avoid feelings that come up, especially surrounding loss. There are difficult experiences throughout life that naturally cause pain; being in pain and emotional is not a sign of weakness as exemplified by our forefathers and mothers. Crying is mentioned repeatedly in the Torah. Exhibiting emotion is a form of facing loss and hardships and going ahead with life despite hardship; this process may cause fatigue. Covid is not something that we have to “just get over”; we acknowledge the full spectrum of the grief and trauma, and integrate the experiences into our lives. We evolve and change from our painful experiences. Hopefully through this work we expand our perspective, and improve who we are as people. In the mishna it is written that we must absorb our bitterness, taste it, and utilize the bitterness to shift our own lives.
Rabbi Jacobson individually thanked community organizations including Hatzalah for their tireless medical concern during and after caring for covid patients; they treated each call as if it were their own family in need. Also recognized was the selflessness of Chevra Kadisha,and their service during the most sensitive time of a family’s need. The Gedaliah Society
was recognized for providing concise updates on how to proceed in a COVID world. Chamah was thanked for providing food distributions in a time of financial constraint.
The event concluded with an address by Chaim Fogelman. He spoke about the importance of gratitude and the stipulations of a sacrifice of thanks in times of Bais Hamikdash, there is only one day and night to finish the Karban – other Karban’s have more time to finish. It is because the time constraint will inspire the person giving the karban to invite people over, and it will be eaten with a group of friends, and he will stop, praise, and thank Hashem publicly. We survived COVID, and now we have the responsibility to make the world a better place. He encouraged the audience to show gratitude for life by challenging ourselves to be better people in all roles in our life, as parents, children, spouses, and friends.
Here is a list of individuals and organizations that are recognized for their dedication to our community.
The Crown Heights Rabbonim, Dr. Hillel Isseroff, Zeh Lozeh & Chanie Kozliner, Rabbi Avrohom Lider OBM and Ahavas Chesed, Shmirah, Shomrim, Chaverim, Chaya Mushka Bikur Cholim, F.R.E.E. food distribution, WellTab, and anyone who volunteered during this chaotic time.
This list is but a small sample of everyone that deserves recognition. We encourage you to reach out to those that were there for you during this difficult time and express your gratitude.
Neshamos, the event organizer, would like to thank COLlive.com for their help, Dovi Abrams and Zikron Digital for the sound and lights production.
The live event replay is available at neshamos.org/remember
VIDEO: Full Replay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKpMBLZZk10