Commemorating and Celebrating the Yoms


Alex Paul ’23

Jews and Israelis around world board an emotional roller coaster and experience feelings such as devastation, anger, and utter elation all within one week: the week of Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron, and Yom Haatzmaut. Even though Ramaz is over 5,000 miles away from Israel, the Ramaz faculty and administration work hard each year to ensure that the students experience these same emotions. Through a number of programs, speakers, and events, students at the high school hear stories of resilience, bravery, and ultimate sacrifice on all three of these days. 

The Yamim began with Yom Hashoah. Students had the privilege of hearing from Ms. Bronia Brandman, a holocaust survivor. Ms. Brandman told the inspiring and heartbreaking story of her life during the war. Students were shocked as she recounted the conditions she was forced to live in and the efforts she made to survive. “They wanted to murder all of the existing Jews. Let’s not forget it.” Her powerful words were ones that students carried with them far after the assembly was over. Talia Leifer ’23 felt particularly impacted by her words. She said, “I was fortunate to hear Ms. Brandman’s story multiple years in a row and it really never gets old. It still amazes me and it is a very eye opening story. I hope I am able to keep hearing this story about the amazing miracles performed so she could survive.”

Following Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron events began. Students attended an assembly in which they heard accounts from different people who had siblings perish while serving in the Israeli army. Jordan Mittler ’22 was an organizer of this event and felt that this was a particularly important perspective to hear. He said, “Yom Hazikaron is usually planned by the Hebrew department, and each hebrew teacher has a segment that they put together that follows a theme. This year, the theme was people who had siblings killed while serving in the army and their responses and how they experienced it, which they thought was a different feel from having a parent or child who died.” Mittler explained that because of Covid, fewer soldiers were killed, so there was not as long of a list of those who were murdered as there usually is. Mor Cohen spoke about her sister who had been going through her first year of training and when she was performing a routine inspection on some citizens, she was killed after halting them. The Cohen family later found out that the men that she stopped had a bomb that was big enough to kill hundreds of people.“The speaker was amazing and I thought that that was a beautiful part of the program,” said Mittler. 

The assembly concluded with a rendition of Hatikvah that was sung by members of the Ramaz chamber choir. Mittler explained, “Usually one person sings it, however I thought that it would be nice to have everyone sing to have a more concrete, interactive experience and it was really nice to conclude the program with that.” It was apparent that students appreciated the time and effort both the Ramaz faculty and students put into the assembly. 

Spirits rose as Yom Haatzmaut festivities began. For the first time in a year, all four grades of Ramaz Upper School were able to come in-person. Students entered on Thursday, April 15 decked out in white and blue. Following suit, the lobby was decorated with banners and Israeli flags. Students were especially excited that they had the opportunity to see friends from other grades. 

Though the weather did not permit the usual dancing on 78th Street, students enjoyed different “sessions” with faculty, in which they spoke about Israel and what the country means to them. Many students participated in a video that consisted of a series of interviews in which grandparents or parents were interviewed about their time or a loved one’s time serving in the IDF. Following, Moadon Haatzmaut took place on Zoom. Students from each grade came together to bring joy to the student body through performance, whether it be by singing, dancing, or playing instruments. 

      However, some students who attended school in-person that day felt as though they had been missed out on the full Yom Haatzmaut experience. Jonathan Licht ’23 thought that perhaps the day could have been a bit more interactive. “I was really looking forward to the Moadon celebration, but I was a little disappointed that the day was mostly videos. Overall, I think the day was fun, especially the food trucks that were brought later in the day.” Students who were online felt as though their experience was mostly fulfilling and enjoyable, but yearned for the celebratory feeling that could only be attained by attending school in-person. Andrew Spielfogel ’23 said, “Being stuck at home for Yom Haatzmaut was definitely a different experience. The online assemblies were great, listening to stories about the speakers’ connections to Israel, though I felt something was missing–that energy of the whole school singing, dancing, and celebrating Israel. I really do wish I could have been in-person for that excitement, because you just can’t replicate that experience at home, watching from a computer.” The in-person day ended with ice cream and falafel from delicious food trucks, which were observably enjoyed by nearly all of the students attending that day.

All in all, students seemed to collectively feel that Ramaz handled the more morose Yamim in a delicate way, while still allowing each portion of the day to feel significant and meaningful. When it came to Yom Haatzmaut, no celebration was spared, and overall, students enjoyed each and every part of it.