The Jewish Community of Palm Beach Synagogue will be holding a special ceremony to commemorate the 17 students who were murdered in Parkland, Florida on February 14th. The ceremony will have a Jewish element to it, commemorating the period of 30 days of mourning that is traditional for Jewish families to observe after the death of a loved one but will commemorate and honor all of 17 students, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.
Attending the ceremony will be the parents of the beloved and heroic teacher Scott Beigel, who gave his life to protect as many students as possible from the shooter. In addition to those guests of honor, other governmental and communal leader will be in attendance as will the Founder and President of Israel’s United Hatzalah emergency medical services organization.
The event will be lead by the community’s founding rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Scheiner and hosted by the Palm Beach Synagogue and its community.
“When the tragedy in Parkland occurred, our community was looking for a way to respond to the tragedy,” said Rabbi Scheiner. “One of our members came forward and told me that he wants to donate an ambucycle (half ambulance half motorcycle) to the lifesaving organization of United Hatzalah in Israel as a response to the tragedy that occurred. He said that in the face of death he wanted to save lives, and that is a lesson that Judaism teaches and that we need to teach all peoples,” he added.
The week after the incident Rabbi Scheiner gave a sermon about how Judaism values life and that if you save a life you save an entire world, whereas if you take a life, you destroy an entire world. During the week following, Rabbi Scheiner joined the member and headed down to Parkland to visit one of the bereaved families and parents of one of the victims. “The member, who wants to remain anonymous, said that he wanted to do something in memory of their daughter and put her name on an ambucycle,” recounted Rabbi Scheiner. “The parents began to cry, they were very moved. On the way back from visiting the shiva house with him, I said to myself, why stop at one ambucycle, perhaps we can donate five. I spoke during my net sermon to the community and three others approached me to donate an individual ambucycle, and a group donated the fifth.”
The community began reaching out to all of the families of the Jewish children who were killed and invited them to commemorate the official 30 days during the event. Other families of those killed were invited as well.
Scheiner said that the families of the victims were comforted by the gesture: “As it is a positive way of remembering their children.” Scheiner added, “These ambucycles will serve the people of Israel and will be a reminder to us and a way of sending a message that the Jewish response to tragedy is to increase in goodness, love, and kindness, and respond to death with saving lives and perpetuating life.”
The President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer said: “There is no better way to memorialize the life of a loved one than by helping to save the lives of others. 17 lives were cut short and here a community not too far away from where the attack happened, a community affected by the attack, is banding together to make a difference. It is my hope that other communities take up the torch of life and join the Palm Beach Synagogue and help save more lives. We are dedicating on Sunday five ambucycles in the memory of the 17 fallen children. Each of these ambucycles will save thousands of lives and help tens of thousands of people in Israel over their lifespans. This will help us remember each child individually who will each have the merit of many thousands of lives being saved in their memory.”
Beer continued: “Unfortunately, we cannot roll back time and rescue those who have already been taken, but we can build a society in which no one who can be rescued dies needlessly in want of emergency medical care. That will be the legacy of these children that the community of Palm Beach Synagogue will cement in their honor. Thank you for allowing myself and United Hatzalah to be a part of this.”
While the Palm Beach Synagogue raised five ambucycles, they would like to see other communities pick up the torch and help raise another 12 ambucycles so that each of the children murdered would have an ambucycle in their memory. “We aimed for five because that is something that we felt our community could do,” said Rabbi Scheiner.
Danielle Elyse David, the Director of Development for American Friends of United Hatzalah said: “Very generous individuals decided to donate a lifesaving ambucycle in memory of one of the victims of Parkland. With the help of the incredible Palm Beach Synagogue Rabbi, Moshe Scheiner, that lone ambucycle soon turned into five life-saving vehicles. Our hope is to eventually have 17 in memory of all the victims of Parkland.”
Speaking from a personal perspective David said: “The Parkland tragedy has had a profound impact and I’ve been personally touched by this tragedy. It is heartbreaking. As a parent in America, it is difficult to feel safe sending your child to school here. However, at the event, the community will come together at Palm Beach Synagogue to dedicate the Ambucycles and stand together in unity and prayers for the victims and their families. It can’t change what has happened, but it will be a beautiful tribute. Hopefully, many future lives will be saved in honor and memory of the Parkland victims.”