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Dear Friends,

A few weeks ago I was going through one of the boxes I took from my mother’s house when she moved last July.
I found the trophy I won when the balsa-wood rocket I made for a Cub Scout competition came in first.
I found the journal I kept during the first months after I arrived in Israel to study abroad during college.
And I found a small, hard bound book with the title “Israel Reborn” in both Hebrew and English.

I remember seeing the book when I was a child but never appreciated its place in my family history and its indirect role in my Zionism.

Printed in 1949, the book contains black and white photos of the years leading up to, and just after, the establishment of the State of Israel. I remember flipping through the book as a child and marveling at some of the photos but I never thought much about it. I certainly didn’t think much about the inscription on the inside cover. It was in Hebrew and I didn’t yet know how to read it.

As I mentioned at services last week, my grandpa Alex came to the US from Russia in the early 1900s. Once here, he sent money to his sister Mary who ultimately made her way to pre-State Israel. Grandpa Alex established the American part of our family, while Mary started the Israeli part. Despite never seeing each other again, they remained close their entire lives.

I found the copy of Israel Reborn in the box and started flipping through it. This time however, when the Hebrew inscription caught my eye I was actually able to read it. It says,

“To Moshe on the occasion of his becoming a Bar Mitzvah. From your Aunt and Uncle in Israel.”

The book had been a Bar Mitzvah gift to my father from the Israeli side of the family. That alone makes it invaluable. It also makes clear that my commitment to Zionism is not something that I arrived at on my own. It has been part of my DNA since the moment of my birth.

The pictures inside are also priceless. They powerfully depict the challenges and the struggle that led to the establishment of the State of Israel. In some of the photos you can see the desperation on people’s faces. In others, you can see the depth of commitment on the faces of those fighting to protect their nascent state. And in others, you can see the pride and joy of those who sought to create a Jewish AND democratic  state on the land that has been central to our community from its very beginning.

Shabbat Message 042823

Having just marked the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence I wanted to share a few of these pictures with you. I hope you find them as powerful as I do.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Daniel Cohen