Sunday morning, March 5th, 2017 was cold and cloudy
with scattered showers. Just before a caravan of cars bringing the older Hebrew
School students, teachers, and some parents arrived at the gates of the Jewish
Cemetery on Cedar Hill Road, small patches of blue sky appeared. The group had
come for a special tree replanting ceremony in honor of Yitzhak Rabin.
In 1996, the Hebrew School’s celebration of Tu BiShvat took on a
different tone. It had only been a few months since Rabin was shot and killed
by a right wing Jewish extremist. Congregation Emanuel Hebrew School decided to
plant a bush in the Jewish Cemetery as a memorial to the fallen Prime Minister
of Israel. Leah Levi, School Coordinator, carefully selected a tree which could
grow in Israel. After a short ceremony at the Synagogue, the Hebrew School
gathered at the Jewish Cemetery, the bush was planted in the garden beside the
Holocaust Memorial and a plaque quoting President Bill Clinton’s farewell
declaration at Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral, “Shalom
Ḥaver” (“Goodbye, Friend”) was unveiled.
Over the years, changes were made to the Holocaust Memorial. A
ramp was installed where the garden once grew. Later, the plant for Yitzhak
Rabin, which never thrived, was eaten by the resident deer. All that
remained was the commemoration plaque.
Around Tu BiShvat 2017, Amber Woods was in the Jewish Cemetery
doing research. While conversing with the caretaker Geoffrey Perkins she
learned he was troubled by the disappearance of the memorial tree and wondered
if it could be replaced. Amber contacted Leah. Greatly moved to learn that
there were people who cared about the bush, Leah decided to hold a rededication
ceremony and to plant another, hopefully more deer resistant, shrub—a Fragrant
Mountain (Hymalian) Silverbox was chosen.
As the sun peaked out from the clouds, about 30 people including
Leah Levi, a number of parents, students at the Hebrew School, Amber Woods and
Geoffrey Perkins gathered beside the Holocaust Memorial. The ceremony (as was
done 22 years ago) included singing songs of peace and hearing a biography of
Yitzhak Rabin, followed by Geoffrey placing the Hymalian Silverbox into the
prepared spot. The opportunity to place a shovelful of earth was given to those
assembled. Geoffrey completed the planting and the ceremony was concluded with
the singing of Hatikvah.
Leah Levi and Amber Woods