The Cleveland Jewish News Foundation and the Ohio chapter of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces are partnering to host two community events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War.
About a year ago, Rabbi Matt Eisenberg of Temple Israel Ner Tamid in Mayfield Heights met with Paul Singerman, president of the Cleveland Jewish News Foundation Board of Directors. During their meeting, Eisenberg showed Singerman the famous photo taken by David Rubinger of three paratroopers after the recapture of the Western Wall during the Six-Day War.
Eisenberg said this photo served as the kernel for the idea to host a special commemoration in Cleveland.
“In life, you don’t know where you’re going unless you have an understanding of where you’ve been,” Eisenberg said. “When we think about the importance of the state of Israel to the Jewish people, we look at the history.”
Singerman said he thought it was a “terrific idea” to hold some sort of commemoration in the community.
“One of the foundation’s missions is community education in matters related to Jewish issues. This was a big deal and we thought it was a perfect fit for the foundation,” Singerman said.
Barry Chelser, board chair of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, suggested to Singerman the idea to create a partnership with the FIDF Ohio chapter for the commemoration. Singerman approached Lane Schlessel, executive director of the FIDF Ohio chapter, and Irwin Haber, chairman of the Ohio chapter.
“Benefitting the education and well-being of combat soldiers is our mantra,” Schlessel said. “It seemed like the perfect opportunity and in thinking way in advance we could really be on the cutting edge of making something special happen.”
Irwin Haber said he was “thrilled” that the CJN Foundation was willing to partner with the FIDF Ohio chapter for the commemoration.
“Because of their active role in this, Cleveland is actually the first city in the FIDF organization nationally that began in this partnership setting in a commemoration of the Six-Day War,” Irwin Haber said. “Once we explained to the national organization of FIDF what we were doing, other cities started following our lead to create some other events around the Six-Day War.”
The first community event as part of the commemoration will be a dessert reception June 5 at Landerhaven in Mayfield Heights. Kenneth W. Stein, a professor of contemporary Middle Eastern history, political science and Israeli studies at Emory University in Atlanta, will serve as the keynote speaker.
Irwin Haber and his wife, Ida, met Stein years ago when Irwin Haber was enrolled in the Wexner Heritage Program. One summer they were invited to Aspen for a week of Jewish education, and Stein was one of their teachers.
“He really struck a positive note with Irwin and myself. He’s very informative and very personable. From that moment on we’ve had a relationship with him,” Ida Haber said.
“We just felt that his knowledge of Israel and the Middle East would be tremendous for him to be the keynote speaker at this event,” Irwin Haber said.
The three paratroopers from Rubinger’s photo also will be in attendance at the June 5 event.
The second community event will be held June 11 at The Lillian and Betty Ratner School in Pepper Pike. While the details are still being ironed out, the event will be an informal celebration for families featuring food, music and singing.
“By us doing this it keeps it in the forefront of everybody’s mind how important the Six-Day War was,” Schlessel said. “This is a pivotal moment in history that changed the lives of Israelis and Jews around the world. We’re going to commemorate an event that changed the future of the state of Israel and the landscape.”
In addition to commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, the two community events also will serve an educational purpose.
“Many, many Jews know the Six-Day War was important, however they don’t know many of the details,” Eisenberg said. “They’re not able to put it into a framework religiously, emotionally or as a people, so this is an opportunity.
“Hopefully people in Cleveland will be reminded of the Six-Day War, engage in the gratitude that we need to have for those who fought, and we will not just hope for a peaceful future but work for a peaceful future in secure terms.”
Ida Haber shared a similar sentiment.
“I’m sure if you sit down with most people, they really don’t know the history behind the Six-Day War,” she said. “History gets lost with everyday living and new history piling on top if it. Since it’s the 50th anniversary, this is a wonderful opportunity not only for adults to be re-educated but also our children and grandchildren. The motto of ‘never again’ has to continue as long as there’s a Jew living on the face of this earth.”
The commemoration will have a tzedekah component, too. Proceeds from both community events will benefit soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces.
“The soldiers of Israel still fight today as they did 50 years ago to protect our Jewish homeland and guarantee our existence,” Schlessel said. “One of the pillars the FIDF operates on is formal education. It’s very important that when combat soldiers finish service in the IDF they have opportunities in education.
“Since one of the Cleveland Jewish News Foundation’s pillars is education, it’s natural that proceeds will go toward the education pillar of FIDF in order to help these soldiers.”
Presenting sponsors are Dr. Jan and Lisa Kriwinsky and family and Pediatric Place, an independent pediatric practice in Beachwood.
The planning committee is composed of Kevin S. Adelstein, Faye Bass, Barry Chesler, Rabbi Matt Eisenberg, Barry Feldman, Sherry Feuer, Irwin and Ida Haber, Jessa Hochman, David Kroh, Lane Schlessel, Paul Singerman and Elie Weiss. Adelstein is publisher and CEO of the Cleveland Jewish News and president of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company.