Please join me for an Israel Advocacy Workshop – Wednesday July 30, 7:30pm
It is more important than ever to get the facts, understand what is going on and learn how to speak up for Israel with family and friends and on social media. You don’t need to know anything about Israel – you simply need to want to do your part to help support the Jewish State. The workshop is free, however participants are urged to make a donation to one the special Israel campaigns being organized by Federation, Friends of the IDF, Jewish National Fund or One Family Together.
RSVP required by noon on Wednesday July 30 to firstname.lastname@example.org
This week, I share with you the heartbreaking words of my good friend, Rabbi Mark Blazer. Mark and I began began rabbinical school together in Los Angeles. He was the best man at our wedding. He and his family live in Southern California where he serves as the Rabbi of Temple Beth Ami. Many of you met him recently as Mark is also the founder of The Albert Einstein Academy – a charter school which will be opening a new school in Broward.
Nine years ago I was Max’s rabbi as he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah with his younger brother Jake. I had the chance to be with him as he took on more responsibility as a young Jewish man. He read from Parshat Devarim, the portion where Moses prepares the Jewish people as they make their entrance into the Promised Land. A new generation finally ready to take on the mantle of living in Israel.
I can’t tell you how proud I was to learn that Max Steinberg was living in Israel a few years later, as a 22 year old, inspired by a Birthright trip. After his visit he decided immediately to return and serve in the IDF.
He had no family there, and did not consider himself religiously observant. But a spark was lit by his time in Israel, and he found a new direction and passion just by being there.
Tragically, I learned about Max’s transformation, his love for Israel, the same time I learned of his death. Max was one of the first military casualties in Gaza two days ago.
He had volunteered for an army combat unit because he wanted to serve with every fiber of his being. And he made it into the Golani Brigade, one of Israel’s elite units.
I asked Max’s mom Evie whether he had ever fired a gun before he went to Israel, and she said she didn’t think he had. He must have had some natural proficiency (combined with his love of the Call of Duty video game) because she told me he was the top marksman in his unit.
When he first went into Gaza his armored vehicle was in an accident with another vehicle, and Max was shaken up. Some of his friends more so. He could have been sent back for medical reasons, but he wanted to go back in. He told his parents this was where he had to be. That was the last conversation they ever had.
I spoke to Max’s mom Monday morning, just before she and the family boarded a flight to Israel. They decided, as a family, to bury Max in Israel. A land where he should have celebrated a wedding, and started a family. A place where he should have lived. Instead, today he was laid there to rest, and now lives in each of us.
As Max is now bound up with the Eternal, may he always be an inspiration to us.
Rabbi Mark Blazer