Keeping Pace: Celebrating and Remembering

May 14, 2024
TJ Katz

Greater Jersey Hudson River Region

Class of 2024

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I’ll be honest, like many other Jewish individuals, for most of my life, Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut were significant days but not necessarily front of mind. I learned about them at Hebrew school, and I’d see an occasional social media post, but nothing truly impactful or visible. 

This year, there’s nothing else I can think about. 

Leave it only to the Jewish people to so beautifully and symbolically place one of our happiest days coinciding with one of our saddest. 

Yom HaZikaron (or Day of Remembrance) is meant to be a day of reflection and reverence for fallen soldiers and victims in the struggle for Israel’s existence. Yom Ha’atzmaut (or Day of Independence), on the other hand, is a day of celebration to commemorate the founding of the Jewish state: Israel. A joyous occasion. Not celebrating every decision made by the government, or even relating to politics in any way, it simply is celebrating the creation of a place the Jewish people can call home. 

Completely juxtaposing yesterday’s holiday’s sentiment, we’re reminded that amongst navigating our pain we must also highlight where the Jewish people are today. The dichotomy of our Day of Remembrance and our Independence Day falling back to back could not better represent the tug-of-war battle that Jews now face on a daily basis around the world. 

Sorrowful, yet prideful. Saddened, yet strong. Constantly being torn apart, yet always ready to pick up the pieces. 

This year, rather than these holidays just being any other days, I am reminded of every person who has given themselves to the cause of founding a Jewish state. I am reminded that if not for the countless sacrifices made, we wouldn’t have a homeland to celebrate and cherish. 

On a personal level, this Day of Remembrance and Israeli Independence Day are extremely meaningful. These holidays mark one week until I will embark on my first-ever journey to the Jewish state. It’s quite peculiar to have such a deep connection to somewhere you have never been, yet countless others around the globe and I experience that daily. It honestly boggles my mind to have such a deep sense of familiarity and safety in an unknown place. But, the caveat is that exactly: Israel is not just a place. It is a people. It is a feeling. It is so much more than anything that can be physically tangible. 

I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to return home for the first time.

Am Yisrael Chai. 

TJ is an Aleph from Greater Jersey Hudson River Region and is serving as the 99th Grand Aleph Godol.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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