School hosts virtual assemblies to mark Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut


photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Over 250 students, teachers and families joined two virtual assemblies for Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

Adam Drexler, Features Editor

Earlier this week, the CESJDS Upper School held online ceremonies for Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut. Yom Hazikaron is a day of remembrance in honor of fallen Israeli soldiers and civilian victims of terror attacks, and Yom Ha’atzmaut is Israel’s national independence day. Typically, the Upper School holds a ceremony followed by Zimriyah. Due to the coronavirus, Zoom calls took place instead.  

The Upper School Hebrew Department worked with JDS Israeli families to prepare the remembrance day ceremony. The Yizkor prayer was recited, along with El Maleh Rachamin and Hatikvah. Also, the ceremony included a demonstration of the siren that goes off throughout Israel on Yom Hazikaron to commemorate those who have died defending Israel. The parents of Sergeant Michael Levine, an American lone soldier in the IDF who was killed in the Second Lebanon War, attended the ceremony, along with over 250 others. His parents planned to share their son’s story at JDS in person, but were not able to due to coronavirus.  

Israeli Shlicha Tal Greenberg took part in the planning of the remembrance day ceremony.  

“It was important for us to try as much as we can to pass the feeling and the atmosphere of Yom Hazikaron in Israel. I hope the message was passed and that students found it meaningful,” Greenberg said.

Alumni Maya Almog (20’) and Maya Bellas (20’) opened the Yom HaAtzmaut event. Clips from last year’s upper school Zimriyah were played, including a video of the whole school singing “Bashana Haba’ah.” 

Towards the end of the event, students were surprised to receive a message from Israeli superstar and winner of the 1998 Eurovision award for Israel, Dana International. The singer led Hatikvah to close out the ceremony, along with many other JDS students in pre-recorded clips.

Freshman Noam Cohen was excited by the surprise appearance of Dana International. 

“It was crazy to see that she cared enough to take part in JDS’s celebration. She is so famous in Israel, ”Cohen said.

Greenberg helped to plan the Israeli superstar’s surprise appearance.  

“I spoke to her agent, and he loved the idea of doing something together and connecting her and our community,” Greenberg said. “She was very excited to greet our students and to sing Hatikvah with them. I think it was a good end to our Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration.”

The two holidays being back to back can evoke some unusual emotions for Israelis and Jews.  The saddest, most serious day in all of Israel abruptly comes to an end as independence day celebrations including concerts and parties break out throughout the country.  

Greenberg thinks the sudden change of emotions helps to show the connection between the two days.

“The very quick and sharp switch between the days is something that is always in the minds of Israelis, and affects most of the families that lost their loved ones. On the other hand, it means so much to understand the reason for our losses, and to thank them for giving us the opportunity to live on this land, together as such a great nation,” Greenberg said.