At a memorial service for three slain Israeli teenagers at The Jewish Center in Princeton on July 3, Rabbi Adam Feldman kept the focus on grieving — eschewing politics but acknowledging tragedy on both sides.
In a short talk to about 65 congregants before the Ma’ariv service, he talked about prayer. “You know why we’re here tonight,” he said. “People need a place of comfort. A community comes together to celebrate and to grieve. In a time of grief, we Jews turn to our prayers for comfort and support.”
Funeral services in Israel were held two days before for the three yeshiva students — Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrach, and Gilad Shaar — whose bodies were found northwest of Hebron 18 days after they were presumed kidnapped. The Israeli government has blamed Hamas for their abduction and murders.
Alluding to the emotions raised by the murder of the three teenagers, Feldman said, “Everyone feels as if the teenagers are our own children.”
But he steered his listeners away from the political, noting, “Lives on both sides of the crisis have been lost this week.” The day before, the mutilated body of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was found in east Jerusalem. Israeli police later arrested six Jewish suspects in connection with that killing.
Feldman also shared thoughts from two friends who were in Israel during the events, Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner of Temple Emanu-El in Closter and Julie Zuckerman, who lives in Modi’in.
Kirshner went to the funeral for the three boys, and wrote, “I felt strangely proud to be able to stand there in solidarity, and at the same time wished not to be there.”
Zuckerman wrote about the emotional tone across the country and the Jewish world: “It feels like the entire country is depressed, not just on a national level, but on a very personal level.… The entire Jewish nation is depressed; love from Jews around the world has come through loud and clear. There is an incredible sense of unity we are feeling, in Israel, and with Jews elsewhere.”
Before transitioning into the evening service, Feldman suggested the congregation pray for the victims and their families: “We hope for peace, security, and partners in the peace process; respect for religious differences; people respecting the sanctity of life and children not being gunned down; and not using innocent teenagers as political collateral.”
“The anthem of ‘Hatikva’ is our anthem for a reason,” Feldman said. “Jews never lose hope, for peace, security, and better times.”
The Ma’ariv service followed, after which Feldman asked all assembled to leave the sanctuary in silence.