Feature Stories

Reflections on 9/11

Jewish Ledger | 9/9/11

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approached, we asked Connecticut’s Jewish communal leaders, as well as some BBYO teens and advisors to share their thoughts and reflections.  Here is what several had to say.

 

Rabbi Yitzchok Adler

Rabbi Yitzchok Adler
Beth David Synagogue
West Hartford

The upcoming tenth anniversary of the attacks on America at the World Trade Center towers provides a moment of pause for the Jewish community to reflect on the wisdom and brilliance of our faith-based traditions. It is a well-established and long-embraced understanding that continuity finds some of its strength in memories. This reason is one among many as to why the rituals of Shabbat, holidays and yahrtzeits are held as sacred. In fact, when the commandments are academically divided based on purpose, one category of mitzvot is referred to as “eidot” – testimonies – and through the observance of these specific commandments we eternalize the experiences of our people from the days of antiquity.
In broad terms, ten years is a very short span of time. Still, the Jewish methodology of crafting rites and responses to the tragedies and successes that punctuate the landscape of our history provide a model for all peoples and all cultures. And that method is ritual. Not yet, but soon, the United States might be ready for a national conversation about ways for 9/11/01 to be memorialized in ways that are practical and relevant to all cities and all communities. Chanukah, Purim, and Tisha B’Av are examples of established commemorations of significant events that impacted the Jewish world, and each is the result of prevalent concerns guided by rabbinic leadership. It is never too late for a population to talk about its history and shared experiences; and through those conversations, there might hopefully emerge a consensus, a vision, and a protocol that can be embraced by all Americans.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pam Ehrendranz

Pam Ehrenkranz
Executive Director
Jewish Federation of Greenwich

Yahrtzeits are intensely personal. You remember someone’s laugh, a story they told you, how their presence filled the room, and often how much you miss them.  For those of us who did not lose someone they knew personally on 9/11, the collective yahrtzeit is a bit different and is evolving. What we initially remembered was a beautiful day shattered by smoke, and death, and terror.  What we lost was not only thousands of lives, but our American innocence.  For just a short time, the entire country sat shiva together—not in our homes, with visitors coming and going, but everywhere we went. Comfort came not only from friends and family commiserating, but from strangers; people with whom you would never have shared even a glance became partners in the conversation of mourning.
Ten years later, we are reminded how much our lives have changed—when we experience long security lines at the airport or have a handbag checked at a museum entrance—something that in years past, we associated with Israel, not the United States.  Ten years later, when I pass Ground Zero, or see a movie shot of lower Manhattan without the Twin Towers, my heart sinks. Ten years later, I still wonder about the lives lost that day—because even though I cannot remember a single person’s laugh, or even one story they told, I realize, I miss them.  I miss what life was like when they were here, filling the world with their presence, when going to a baseball game or Disney World did not make people think twice about their safety. And yet, as the Kaddish prayer will be recited in synagogues all over the world for the ones who perished, I wonder how much has really changed in a decade. Ten years later, we are still asking: May He who makes peace in the heavens grant peace for all of us.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gary Jones

Gary Jones
Regional Director
Anti-Defamation League

The Anti-Defamation League takes this opportunity to remember and honor the victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on our country.
The tenth anniversary of that horrific event in American history should also serve as a reminder of the terrible consequences of hate. Abe Foxman, ADL’s National Director, has called 9/11 “the date hate became everyone’s problem”. As a Jewish community, we have long been all too aware that hate can lead to horrific consequences. Our history has demonstrated that when a people, or groups of people, are assiduously demonized and dehumanized, murderous actions can be a logical result. Because of 9/11, all of America now understands the relationship between hate and murder.
That understanding should help to foster an ongoing and unified response. As Americans, we must renew our efforts to fight hate and bigotry in all of its manifestations in our own communities and around the world, while ensuring the protection of the liberties and freedoms we value as our sacred heritage. We must also continue to build bridges of understanding among and within our respective communities. In doing so, we can hasten the day when hatred and ideologically based violence are eradicated from our midst.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cathrine Fischer Schwartz

Cathrine Fischer Schwartz
President and CEO
Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford

On the morning of 9/11, I was at the Hartford Seminary discussing collaboration between the three Abrahamic faith traditions – Jews, Christians and Muslims. Cell phones, mine included, began ringing as we learned what had happened. The meeting ended abruptly as we found a television and saw the footage of an airplane hitting the World Trade Center.
As I hurriedly drove to the office, the radio reported that the ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’ had taken responsibility for the attack. Set against recent events of 2001 – the Second Intifada, the Dolphinarium attack and protestors demonstrating against Moshe Katsav’s visit to Hartford – I wondered, “Would Israel and the Jews somehow be blamed?!” Although Al-Qaeda finally took responsibility for the attack, U.S. support for Israel was among the reasons (however erroneous) cited.
What I recall most during the days and months that followed was the unity of the American people and the spirit of community that prevailed. It was clear that the values that unite us as Americans are stronger than any forces that divide us.
Ten years later, with so much polarization in our society, I hope we will remember that feeling of unity and seek to recapture it.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rabbi Jim Rosen

 

Rabbi Jim Rosen
Beth El Temple
West Hartford

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 it was common to hear people say “we’re all Israelis now”.  The meaning: Americans would now also know the fear and vulnerability that flows from cruel acts of terror that glory in mind-numbing evil.
That phrase has largely disappeared from public discourse for many reasons but I wish that at least in one respect it might return.
Yes,the two nations bicker at times but still fundamentally meet at the intersection of justice and dignity. Both were founded on the basis of redemption where progress is measured in the moral realm as well as the economic.At their best, both cherish the individual and respect for the other. Both raise their children to affirm life not to perish in the ashes of wanton destruction for the sake of a cruel utopia.
The Jewish and the American are two civilizations oriented towards healing and hope.
We owe the victims of 9/11 something. At the very least, a world based on goodness restored,where violence against the innocent is unimaginable and intolerable.
There are two nations in the world who by dint of history and shared destiny can best lead that task. They are America and Israel.

____________________________________________________________________

Several BBYO teens and advisors offered their reflections on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
____________________________________________________________________

Every generation seems to have a day they will never forget.  My grandparents remember Pearl Harbor, my parents remember the assassination of JFK.  I will always remember driving to visit my sister at Connecticut College on 9/11 and listening to the radio as the United States was attacked.  As soon as I got to her campus, I noticed no one was around.  Everyone was hunkered down in front of TV’s watching the news.  Since Connecticut College is right across the street from the Coast Guard Academy and the Nuclear Sub base, my first thought was to get the hell out of there.  My second thought was that I couldn’t get ahold of a friend of mine who was living in N.Y. at the time.
As the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it is interesting to hear a teen’s perspective of the events that transpired.  In BBYO, the advisors and parents all have a clear recollection of what happened that day.  But many of the teens were only between 4 and 8 years of age.  Because of our proximity to New York, many of our members either knew someone directly or knew of someone who perished in the terrorist attacks.
Teens have grown up in the time of Al Qaida.  At a BBYO meeting a few months ago, upon the death of Osama Bin Laden, one teen proclaimed “well that closes the door on this chapter.”

Josh Cohen
Director
Connecticut Valley Region BBYO
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

I was in school on Sept. 11, 2001.  In second grade everything seems fun and easy, and you can forget that there are bad people in the world who base their lives on hate.  As someone living in the United States it is easy to forget how fragile and vulnerable everyone really is, when we live in such a powerful country.  I also noticed how it seemed to bring people together. Until Osama Bin Laden was caught and killed recently, I felt like it was an open chapter, a terrible event that could happen again.  I think his death brought closure to many people who lost family and friends in the attack.

Ethan Kannel
Amherst, Mass.
BBYO member
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The first thing I think of when I remember September 11, 2001 is hearing my principal making a school wide announcement over the PA system asking us to rise and stand for a moment of silence as the first tower fell. I was in first grade.  When I think of 9/11, I think of the terror that had stretched out its corrupted, mangled hand into the lives of everyday Americans.  It is this very same terror that people in Israel are forced to deal with every day as rockets rain down on their cities from Gaza.

Matthew Vine
Fairfield
BBYO member
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
9/11 to me, is the day the city I love changed forever. I was in my dorm room in college, trying to catch a nap before my next class. I woke up just in time to see the second plane crash into the tower. I was living on Long Island, not far from New York City at the time. As we watched, we started listing all of the recent graduates that we knew that went on to work and intern in the city. As the days went on and life began to return to normal, there was always a feeling that something was different. I’ll never forget my first trip back to Connecticut, just two weeks after Sept. 11. I took the Whitestone Bridge from Queens to the Bronx, as I had done hundreds of times in my life. As I looked to my left at the familiar New York City skyline, seeing the hole in lower Manhattan reminded me that the city I knew so well would be forever changed.

Julie Pinkussohn
Milford
BBYO advisor  
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In 2001, I was a junior at Quinnipiac University. I remember my alarm going off and the DJ describing the scene in lower Manhattan. By the time I turned the TV on the second plane hit. As my roommates and I tried to figure out what was going on, I got a phone call from my on campus employer. They needed me to go through files to see if we had any students doing internships in the Trade Centers. Luckily, we didn’t. Looking through the names of students and trying to figure out if someone was alive or a victim was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

Aron Pinkussohn
Milford
BBYO advisor  
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I remember sitting in my second grade classroom as my teacher told us we could not leave the room. When I was picked up, I did not go home, but to a friend’s house, where our nannies kept us away from the TVs, but we kept sneaking downstairs just to catch glimpses of the terror that had stricken New York City. I remember my nanny worrying about my mother, who worked in the city at the time, and who had trouble getting home that night. 9/11 changed my whole view on the world.

Jessi Gerowitz
Stamford
BBYO regional president   
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
On Sept. 11, 2001, I had just started first grade. We had a moment of silence when the word reached school and soon after, parents came to pick up their kids to take them home for the day. When I got home my parents told me a plane hit a tall building, but for me, that just meant some people got hurt in some place. But for my sister’s best friend, it meant her dad was never coming home.

Lily Schact
Stamford
BBYO member
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
To me 9/11 means the start of a long line of attacks and wars. I was in kindergarten; I vaguely remember being told about it accidentally, seeing a bit of the smoke on my way home from school, and I remember that from that day on for about two months we had security guards on our bus (I lived on Long Island). I also remember my aunt coming to our house that evening crying because her husband worked in the city and hadn’t come home. He was fine.

Addye Susnick
Ridgefield
BBYO member  
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Although this was a solemn time in our history, there were positive sentiments that came out of it as well, in effect building a stronger and closer society. Americans were there for one another and helped each other through the tragedy. Now, I just tell myself that whenever there is evil there is also a sense of hope. I was only in second grade. My uncle also worked in the building next to the twin towers, so my mom called him to make sure that he was okay. When I got older, my mom finally explained what happened that day and my uncle told me that he witnessed the tragic moment before his eyes.

Genna Fudin
Monroe
BBYO member
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I can’t really remember the day itself but I know it was a sad day. I didn’t lose anyone in 9/11 but one of my family friends lost her father and when she told me I was speechless. She was 2 when he died and her brother was just about born. I never want to experience or have anyone else experience such a tragic day.

Sara Rubin
Fairfield
BBYO member
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My school district had the day off for a town voting day. My brothers and I were home, watching TV and playing games. While we were in the middle of watching one of our TV programs, the channel switched to broadcast the news of the Twin Towers. I was upset the TV program stopped. When I look back to my first reaction, I get a bit upset at myself, but than I realize little kids don’t understand tragedy too well.

Fay Stoloff
Willimantic
BBYO member
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I remember coming home and looking at the TV and seeing planes crashing into two large buildings. I was little and didn’t exactly know what to make of it, but I remember my friend calling me hysterical about how her dad was a fireman and had to leave to go help try to save people. I also remember my mom being extremely upset about finding out her friend didn’t make it. It was mind blowing as to how much one day can change a person’s life, but 9/11 really did.

Yarden Tepper
Shelton
BBYO member

SHARE
RELATED POSTS
Meet the beloved ‘Bitcoin Rabbi’ of Twitter
Does anti-Israel bias in a Boston area school signal an emerging nationwide trend?
Plant a Tree for Gilad Shalit!

Leave Your Reply