Our Stories

Remembering Yitzhak Rabin

November 5, 2015 by Naomi Reem (Faculty and Staff)

It was a sunny Shabbat afternoon in Miami twenty years ago when I first heard the unimaginable news that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been shot. I was spending the afternoon with a group of friends, young couples with babies or, like me, expecting our first ones. We were studying Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of our Ancestors, a Jewish text that provides wisdom for living a rich and ethical life. Hearing the news in this context, closely followed by the notice of Rabin’s death and the even more devastating revelation that he had been shot by a fellow Jew, made it even more impactful. What kind of a world was I bringing my child into? These thoughts were not unlike my own mother’s when she heard about President Kennedy’s assassination a half world away, holding me, her one-year-old toddler.

Fast forward ten years. As the new Head of JPDS-NC and proud mother of a fourth grader, I was honored to be part of the dedication of our Library in memory of Yitzhak Rabin, and the launch of a school-wide curriculum on the life and legacy of the late Prime Minister, the parallels between his life and the early years of the State of Israel, including a focus on conflict resolution. I heard Yuval Rabin, Yitzhak’s son, talk about the three gun shots that changed his life and the life of the nation forever.

Another ten years elapsed, as yesterday, I watched a new generation of fourth, fifth, and sixth graders learn about and reflect on the legacy of Yitzhak Rabin, right here, in the Library named in his memory, in the heart of Washington, DC, guided by two Israeli educators from the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Project. As part of the discussion, students had the opportunity to ponder the dangers of words and actions that can incite violence.

It was at that moment – after twenty years, as I watched our students and thought of my now young adult son – that I realized that we bring our children into this world to make it better, day after day. Tikkun Olam and Chesed are alive and well among our students, faculty, and families. We have much yet to do – a theme I encountered twenty years ago with my Pirkei Avot study group: “You are not expected to finish the task, but you are also not exempt from working on it.” Ancient wisdom and recent history have much to offer our students on the heritage they carry and the moral obligations implicit in living a Jewish life. Our job at JPDS-NC is to equip them with the dispositions and the tools to fulfill these. May we all succeed in our sacred work.