Normandy Kaddish Project
A week from today, on June 6th, the world will pause to remember the hundreds of thousands of troops who fought in the D-Day invasion, including the thousands who gave their lives on the beaches of Normandy.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the invasion and, thanks to the follow through of one man, synagogues across the United States will be remembering the fallen at Normandy in a very special way.
Alan Weinschel, a member of Temple Sinai of Roslyn in New York was inspired on a recent trip to Normandy and the American cemetery at Omaha Beach.
[My wife and I] were there right after the High Holidays. I saw that some of the Magen David [tombstones] had coins and stones placed on top of them, but many others were bare. I know that this was the time of year that people often visit graves of family members. Seeing the empty gravestones triggered something in my mind that had me asking, “who is saying kaddish for these guys?”
When he returned, Alan met with his rabbi, Michael White, and the president of his temple to try and arrange for a community effort to do something to remember these young men at the cemetery. Initially the thought was to arrange for a congregational trip to Normandy to say kaddish at the cemetery, but logistics and costs proved prohibitive for such a large contingent. Despite the setback, the group realized that they could still do something back stateside. Alan asked his rabbi, “We don’t have to be there to say kaddish right? Why can’t we do it here?”
Inspired by the enthusiasm expressed by others about the idea, Alan and Rabbi White reached out to people on the Reformed congregation listserv. The response was incredible. Alan could not recall the exact number of congregations that volunteered to participate, but he assured me it was in the hundreds.
Additionally, Alan used some of his contacts in various Jewish organizations to reach out to Conservative and Orthodox groups. The response was equally as enthusiastic. Several Orthodox congregations are going to implement it into their Yizkor service for Shavuot (on June 5th).
What started as a small project for his own community turned into an outpouring of support across the globe. Members from the French Jewish community are going to travel to the Normandy cemetery to say kaddish and Jewish communities in Canada are going to participate at home to honor Canadian’s who died in the invasion.
There will be a follow up story on JIG after the event to cover some of the activities at these various communities as well as tell more of Alan’s journey in this project. In the meantime, do what you can to get your own congregation involved. The intent is to make this an annual event but now, on the 70th anniversary, is the time to take that first step and get your community involved.
Some congregations are printing individual booklets with names of the fallen and some background context. Others are simply making an announcement and including them in their kaddish. Whatever your congregation decides to do, take a moment to honor those who gave their lives in an operation that changed the world as we know it today.
For more information on how you can participate, contact Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org.