60 Rabbis From Across North America Come Together at Manhattan’s 9/11 Memorial
Rabbis Advocate for Israel and Address Today’s Jewish Community
On the lawn of the new 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan, dozens of rabbis stood facing east, davening together on a recent June afternoon. The group included rabbis young and old, women and men, from all denominations and types of congregations from across North America. In a place where spirituality pervades, the rabbis added their own prayers, offering a Mourner’s Kaddish for those that perished there more than 10 years ago.
Rabbi Neil Sandler of Atlanta led the Mincha service next to the miraculous "Survivor Tree," one of the site’s original pear trees that continues to sprout life. “As a rabbi who officiated at the memorial services of two 9/11 victims, it was both an honor and an uplifting experience,” he said.
The visit was part of The Jewish Federations of North America’s Annual Rabbinic Cabinet meeting in New York City, which brought together 60 rabbis for three days of informative presentations, thought-provoking discussions, and intimate meetings with political, religious and community leaders.
“The annual meeting really touched upon and combined the full spectrum of what it means to be a rabbi in North America in the 21st century,” said Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt of Washington, D.C., chair of JFNA’s Rabbinic Cabinet.
The meeting began with visits to the United Nations, where the rabbis split into groups and met with ambassadors and representatives of a dozen countries, including the Vatican’s mission to the UN. Ambassador Richard Schifter, who served in the UN and as ambassador to the Human Rights Commission, provided strategic guidance on which missions the rabbis might best influence.
At meetings with leaders from Canada, Estonia, Poland and others, the rabbis urged action on topics including the unjust treatment of Israel at the UN, the delegitimization of Israel, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the threat of a nuclear Iran.
“An astonishingly high number of nations – 12 – agreed to meet with us,” said Weinblatt. “We were extremely well received, and they were happy to hear from us. Time will tell what impact our meetings will have.”
During their visit to the 9/11 Memorial, the rabbis spoke to Michael Arad, the Israeli-American architect who designed the site, and Salvatore Cassano, commissioner of the NYC Fire Department. The group also toured the 9/11 Tribute Center with its president and co-founder, Lee Ielpi, and heard about response to tragedy from Rev. Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York; Rabbi Simkha Weintraub of the National Center for Jewish Healing; and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive director of the New York Board of Rabbis.
Over the three days, rabbis studied with Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, and conversed with Jewish leaders including Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Ambassador Ron Prosor, Israel’s permanent representative to the UN; and Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of JFNA.
“We need your wisdom at Federation tables across North America,” said Silverman during his presentation. “As rabbis, you remind us that we are rooted in the powerful gift of Torah. As leaders, you guide us and ensure we weave its teaching into our work.”