Five Towners bring chizuk to Denmark


Jordan Hiller of Woodmere organized a chizuk mission to Copenhagen this week and was joined by several other Five Towners, including Rabbi Gedaliah Oppen, principal of Judaic Studies at the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway High School. They joined 2,000 people (including the Danish prime minister and other digitaries) at a memorial service for slain synagogue security guard Dan Uzan, Hy”D, paid a shiva call, and delivered presents to bat mitzvah girl Hannah Ben Tov. Rabbi Oppen filed this report before they embarked.

On Feb. 14, Dan Uzan, Hy”D, a 37 year old Jewish volunteer security guard, was murdered in cold blood by an Islamic terrorist, as he was protecting the synagogue in which the bat mitzvah of Hannah Ben Tov was being celebrated.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who attended Dan Uzan’s funeral, proclaimed “an attack on the Jews of Denmark is an attack on Denmark.”

I believe we should all be declaring clearly, emphatically and loudly that “an attack on any Jew, no matter where he or she is — whether in Israel, the United States, Paris or Denmark, or any place in the world — is an attack on all Jews and every Jew.” 

When Jordan Hiller, a former HAFTR student of mine, advised HAFTR Director of Admissions and Communications Leslie Gang that he was organizing a chizuk mission to strengthen and encourage the Jews of Copenhagen, I could not help but offer to participate.

In announcing the mission, Jordan quoted the bat mitzvah girl on how her day of joy transformed into a tragedy, saying “I wish I didn’t have a bat mitzvah.” Who can blame her for feeling vulnerable, alone and abandoned? Yet we cannot let this be the case! “Kol Yisroel Araivim Zeh L’Zeh” (we are all responsible for the wellbeing of one another.”)

When I mentioned the mission to my wife, Yehudis, her reaction was immediate. “How can you not go? There are people b’tzaar, people who are in pain, people who need to know that we are with them.”

The idea was also enthusiastically endorsed by my colleague Naomi Lippman, HAFTR’s principal of General Studies, and Executive Director Ruben Maron who insisted, “A mitzvah like this? For sure you should go.” 

Purim is almost upon us. If we ask ourselves, what was the turning point of the nartive in Megillat Esther, we would find the crucial moment was when Esther commanded Mordichai, “Lech Knos Es Kol HaYehudim” (“Go and gather all of the Jews”).

To understand why this was the focal point of the drama, we must recall that when the wicked Haman sought permission from King Achashveirosh to massacre the Jews, he noted, “Yeshno am echad mefuzar u’mefurad bein ha’mim” (“There is one nation which is scattered and separated amongst all the other nations”).

Haman recognized that when the Jewish nation is scattered and separated we become vulnerable and an easy target throughout the generations. However, when we stand united as one, when we feel the pain of others, when we demonstrate through word and deed that no Jew is alone and that we are there for one another, then we can confront and successfully challenge all those who wish to destroy us. When Hashem sees that we are b’achdut, when we stand together just as at Mount Sinai, then Hashem bestows His shechina upon us and saves us from the wicked. 

Jordan Hiller’s mission reminded me that we must stand together with our brothers and sisters and assert to the world that we all stand united as one people.

The loss of Dan Uzan, and the pain and suffering of the citizens of Copenhagen, is our loss, our pain and our suffering as well. The saddened bat mitzvah girl and her broken-hearted family, who must live with the memories of her shattered bat mitzvah, must rely on us to glue back together those broken pieces.

I brought with me bat mitzvah gifts and letters of mazel tov and encouragement from my students at HAFTR High School. The members of the mission also planned to extend personal condolences and deliver letters of nechama during a shiva visit to the Uzan family.

As I write this, I am seeing the snow falling and I think of how each snowflake falls as an individual; yet, when those singular snowflakes join together, they become so powerful that they can shut down roads, cause airports to close and in so many ways demonstrate the power of Hashem over His world, our world. Maybe, just maybe, the fact that we have had unpredicted and unprecedented amounts of snow this year, not just here in the United States but across the globe, may be a messege from Hashem that no matter what differences we may have, no matter that no two snowflakes are alike, we must unite not to create a storm but to withstand a storm.

B’ezrat Hashem, just as in Megillat Esther we united and thus merited to be saved from the devastating plot of Haman, so too, may we all unite and thus be zoche to the day when Moshiach Tzedkenu will arrive and bring us as one to the city of Shalom, the City of Peace, with the building of the Bais Hamikdash.