In Memoriam


The facts are similar enough to warrant our recollection.  On September 15, 1963 three 14-year old girls and one eleven year old girl were killed by a bomb that exploded in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  Initially, only one person was charged for any crime related to the deaths.  Robert Chambliss was convicted of possession the dynamite used in the hate crime and was fine $100.  Thirty-six years later the Federal Bureau of Investigation finally closed the cased with Chambliss and his surviving Ku Klux Klan accomplices convicted of murder and sent to prison.  The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the eulogy at the funeral of three of the four girls.  His words – with minor revision – apply so aptly to the three 16-year old yeshiva boys kidnapped, murdered, and left in a rocky field near Hebron.


‘These children – unoffending; innocent and beautiful – were the victims of one of the most vicious, heinous crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.

They died nobly.  They are the martyred heroes for…freedom and human dignity.  So they have something to say to us in their death.  They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows.  They have something to say to every Arab politician who has fed his people the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of anti-Semitism.  They have something to say to world that has compromised with the undemocratic practices of Islamist regimes and the blatant hypocrisy of the United Nations.  They say to each of us, Jew and non-Jew alike, that we must substitute courage for caution.  They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, and the philosophy which produced the murderers.

In spite of the darkness of this hour we must not despair.  We must not become bitter; nor must we harbor the desire to retaliate with violence.  We must not lose faith.  Somehow we must believe that even the most misguided among men can learn to respect the dignity and worth of every person.

To the members of the bereaved families: the Shaers, Yifrachs, and Fraenkels – it is almost impossible to say anything that can console you at this difficult hour and remove the deep clouds of disappointment…Death is not a period that ends the sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to more lofty significance…Never forget that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.  Your children did not live long, but they lived well.  The quantity of their lives was disturbingly small, but the quality of their lives was magnificently big.  Where they studied and how they lived will remain a marvelous tribute to each of you and an eternal epitaph to each of them.

May the flight of angels take them to their eternal rest.’


Words to Live By

What lies behind you and what lies ahead of you pales in comparison to what lies inside you.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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