Shalom Chaverim (Dear Friends),
By the time you read this, the Day of Atonement will be behind us. Every year, I am moved when I hear the prayer Yehiyu L’ratzon, or Psalm 19:14 in English, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You, my Rock and my Redeemer.” I’m not sure why certain things move me the way they do, but this psalm makes me downright emotional. When I utter these words, I feel like I truly am speaking to my Maker. And, I suppose I am.
This year I couldn’t help but connect those emotional words with my feelings of devastation at the loss of one of my Jewish overnight campers who grew to become a tremendous advocate for Israel, even making Aliyah, Mr. Ari Fuld, z”l. Ari was 9 when I was a counselor. I lost track of him for many years but reconnected through Facebook a few of years ago. We met up in person last November at the JFNA General Assembly in LA and I chatted with him several times while on our men’s mission to Israel this past summer. In fact, it turned out that Ari was the commander of a fallen soldier we visited at Mount Herzl Cemetery. That soldier was a friend of one of our mission participants and we had no idea of the connection until I mentioned his name to Ari. Ari was upset that I could not find the time to see him again before our mission ended. And now, sadly, I never will be able to see him again. I’m sorry, Ari. A 16-year-old terrorist stabbed Ari from behind. Though fatally wounded, Ari pursued the terrorist and took him down so that he would be brought to justice and could do no further damage. Ari was just 45 years old… a father of four… a soldier serving in the reserves… a hero, my hero. Rest in peace, my friend.
This week’s Torah portion is Haazinu (Listen In) in Deuteronomy. It is the last day of Moses’ earthly life and he dies as graciously as he lived, looking into Israel from Mount Nebo. While it would be a stretch to compare my friend Ari to Moses, Ari did find the courage to make Israel his home and as his name translates into English, he was a Lion for the Jewish people and for Israel. Ha’azinu Hashamayim, Give ear, O ye heavens… and may the mediations of my heart be acceptable to You my Rock, that Ari Fuld, z”l, be remembered for a blessing and may his actions in his life be an example for us all as to what it means to live with purpose and bravery.
Chief Executive Officer
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