The West Los Angeles Reform congregation Temple Isaiah has unveiled a memorial honoring U.S. armed forces — Jewish and non-Jewish — killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, drawing inspiration from a similar memorial in Boston.
“I was walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, and along the route, there is the Old North Church and they have this beautiful memorial to soldiers who have died,” said Rabbi Zoë Klein of Temple Isaiah. “I think, for us, the memorial is our Jewish response to be witnesses. It’s about being empathetic partners and empathetic neighbors within a larger community.”
The memorial was unveiled during Friday night services at the synagogue, on Nov. 12, one day after Veterans Day, during a night of interfaith worship: Pastor Rachel Ciupek-Reed of Mt. Hollywood Congregational Church, Father Alexei Smith of the Catholic Archdiocese, the Rev. David Farley of Echo Park United Methodist Church and the Rev. Liz Munoz of Trinity Episcopal Church joined Klein in the service.
Suspended from wires high on a brick wall in the West Pico Boulevard temple’s entrance courtyard, the memorial is visible from the street. It is made from thousands of armed-service-style dog tags hanging from rods, forming a canopy between two steel blocks, the front one inscribed with the Hebrew words for “spread over them a shelter of your peace.”
Jackie Kahn-Trauberman, a board member at Temple Isaiah, designed the memorial, noting that she incorporated her training in architecture and that her collaboration with Klein started during a conversation in a board meeting.
“The rabbi was telling the board how she’d seen a memorial ... describing it and talking about it ... and, as she was talking about it, I was sketching,” Kahn-Trauberman said. “I actually pretty literally sketched what you’re seeing here.”
At the service, Klein, as she said she does every week, read the names of the American soldiers who had died in Afghanistan that week. She also said aloud the number of Iraqi security forces and civilian deaths in November: 107.
“There are some [who] would look and say this is an anti-war statement,” Klein said, “and there are some who would also look at it and say this is actually honoring soldiers, that they didn’t just die for nothing with no one remembering them.”
— Ryan Torok, Staff Writer