Naftali Weisz went to Israel along with 400 Yeshiva University (YU) students in Operation Torah Shield II in January, studying Torah as a form of solidarity with Israelis, attending seminars on how to act as "ambassadors" back home and meeting families of the Jews killed during the current Palestinian Arab uprising.
How do we apply what we learned there, Weisz and some fellow YU students asked themselves upon returning to the United States.
Their answer is on page 31 of this week's Jewish Journal.
The Journal is among some three dozen Jewish papers in the United States and Canada that are carrying, at no charge, a full page of copy titled "Kol Haneshama" (Hebrew for "every soul"), that features miniprofiles and photographs of seven Israelis killed during the 17 months of the Palestinian intifada.
All of the 300-plus Jews killed since the shootings and suicide bombings began 17 months ago will be included in future ads, Weisz says.
He calls the project a way to personalize among American Jews the ongoing killings and to honor the concerns of the bereaved relatives that the students met in Israel. "Their major concern was that their sons and daughters are going to be forgotten."
"People were dying, and no one [in this country] knew what their names were [within days of the killings], says Weisz, a senior and Jewish studies major. He and his friends were inspired by the "Portraits of Grief" miniprofiles of the Sept. 11 victims that have run in The New York Times over the last six months.
"What a nice thing -- to personalize the tragedy," Weisz thought. Through networking by YU students around the United States, including Los Angeles, Jewish papers of various religious and political leanings agreed to run the ads. Jewish day school students contacted the victims' families and wrote the profiles. Eventually, says Weisz, project coordinator, the U.S. schools will "adopt" an affected family.
"We want to create an awareness among the Jewish community of the personal side of this intifada -- it's about more than borders and politics," Weisz says. "It's about families that are being cut apart."
The intifada victims profiled in this week's ad include 14-year-old Koby Mandell, killed in the hills near Tekoa, and Shoshana Hayman Greenbaum, a former day school teacher in Long Beach, N.Y., who grew up in Los Angeles and died in the Sbarro's bombing last August in Jerusalem.
The monthly selection, based on names supplied by the Israel Emergency Solidarity Fund, is "random," Weisz says. "We want to memorialize every soul."
Kol Haneshama will continue, he says, as long as there are terrorism victims to remember. "I hope we have to stop our project."
Reprinted with permission of The New York Jewish Week.