Family members of Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, who was killed in an attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood last November, said one of the things that helped them survive the immediate period after the terror attack was the number of people, from Israel and around the world, who called and visited to express their support and love.
Ultra-Orthodox, secular, and everywhere in between, visited the family, generating a feeling of unity that has enveloped the family in the aftermath of Kupinksy’s death, his father, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Kupinsky, said at the annual Americans and Canadians in Israel memorial in a forest outside Jerusalem on Sunday evening.
The annual ceremony honors soldiers and terror victims from the English-speaking community who have fallen in the past year. This year, the ceremony honored Chaya Zissel Braun, a three-month-old baby killed last October when a Palestinian man rammed his car into Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill light rail stop, as well as three victims of the Har Nof massacre: Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, Rabbi Kalman Zev Levine, and Rabbi Moshe Twersky.
Kupinsky’s father spoke of the overwhelming response of all different kinds of Jews and Israelis who came to support the family during the traditional week of mourning.
“While we were sitting shiva, we said, ‘What can we do to keep up this feeling of unity?’” Kupinsky said.
One of his sons, who served as a missionary in the US and is currently the head of a yeshiva in Memphis, Tennessee, immediately went on a 10-city speaking tour in the US, emphasizing the love and support the family received from all parts of Israeli society.
“It struck a chord with people,” said Kupinsky, as did stories about his late son Aryeh’s generosity. He recalled that Aryeh often had three freezers in his living room after starting a gemach — or voluntary repository — of industrial-strength appliances, which he would deliver for free to anyone who needed an extra freezer for a celebration such as a wedding or bar mitzvah.
“We have to accept everyone as an individual and realize that we’re all responsible for each other,” said Dr. Bracha Kupinsky, Aryeh’s mother. As a way to honor her son’s memory, Bracha, who has taught at Hebrew University and a number of other institutions, asks her students to do an act of hessed, or lovingkindness, every day.
Kupinsky’s father urged synagogue rabbis to address the issue of unity in services on Yom Kippur, both in Israel and abroad, especially in a time of discord and conflict within the Jewish community.
The AACI memorial honors 335 soldiers and victims of terror who have been killed since the 1920 Tel Hai massacre. Representatives from the Canadian and American embassies also attended the ceremony this year.
“When someone is killed, there’s no difference between English speakers and non-English speakers,” said Julian Landau, the national president of AACI, who lost his son in the first Lebanon war in 1982. “But we feel, as representatives of the English-speaking community in Israel, that we should honor those who lost their lives, both soldiers and victims of terror, who sacrificed their lives so we can live here.”
“Every immigrant parent that this happens to is asked, ‘Would you do it again if you knew what would happen?’” Landau told the ceremony, which included 50 AACI members and 50 participants on the Aardvark gap year program for North Americans. “No one wants harm to come to their child, but I am grateful for the fact that my other children will grow up in this Jewish country.”
The memorial service takes place each year between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a time when many people are examining their consciences, a good time for reflection, said Landau.
“Every year, we say may next year be the year that we do not add any more names [to the memorial stone],” said Rabbi Jay Karzen, part of the AACI Memorial Committee who served as one of the event’s MCs. “But we never make it. May this year be the year. May it be a violence free and peaceful year.”
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