The True Heroes

I grew up in the North Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York in the 1970s. As there were no Modern Orthodox synagogues near my home at that time, we used to take a long walk along the Henry Hudson Parkway every Shabbat morning until we finally reached the Riverdale Jewish Center. Along the way, we passed many different churches and synagogues of every denomination.

As a young child, while studying about Rivka’s pregnancy in Parsha Toldot, I imagined Rivka walking through Riverdale and being pulled in all different directions as it says in Breisheet 25:22 “The children were running (vayitrotzetzu) inside of her.” Rashi’s comment, quoting from Breisheet Raba 63:6 always reminded me of my own neighborhood which was dotted with churches and synagogues: “When she would pass the doorways of Torah study of Shem and Ever, Yaakov would agitate and rush to come out. When she would pass doorways of other houses of worship, Eisav would agitate to come out.”

Another place that we would pass along the highway was the Riverdale fire station which I finally was able to visit on an elementary school trip. Although different from the houses of worship, it too is a holy place with firefighters dedicated to saving lives who put their lives at risk on September 11, 2001 and every day.

Today, for the first time, I had the honor to meet Jerusalem’s firefighters while distributing cards and gift baskets at the Jerusalem fire station which is hidden on the edge of the Givat Mordechai neighborhood. It was amazing to meet the men and women who are on call 24 hours a day, the heroes who fought the fires last week in the cities surrounding Jerusalem.

The firefighters were touched that people from the United States and Israel were thinking of them during these difficult times sending gifts and cards. They were also appreciative of the firefighters who came from abroad (including from the United States) to help out, staying until the heavy rains began to fall.

What surprised me was that aside from the usual fire trucks and fire house that you find in a regular fire station, although they did not have a fire pole or a Dalmation, they had a synagogue on the premises including a women’s section.  

How fortunate we are to have firefighters in Israel and abroad who deserve our love and appreciation every day of the year.