A Shofar at the WWII Museum

Monday, 23 September, 2019 - 12:16 pm

Earlier this week I was invited by my friend Morris Kahn to give an invocation at an award ceremony being held at the WWII Museum. The organization of which he is a board member, under the leadership of Bill McNutt, is lobbying for the US to hold a state funeral for the last Medal of Freedom recipient from among the WWII veterans. You can see more about the project at The award was recognizing Congressman Steve Scalise for his efforts on their behalf.

I figured that since it was the month of Elul, I would include some references to Rosh Hashanah and bring a Shofar along to sound at the ceremony. There happened to be several Jewish people in the room, including one of the WWII veterans being honored on stage. After a poignant introduction by Morris Kahn I shared the following remarks.

“Honorable Congressman, Honored Veterans, Honored assembly, Ladies and gentlemen.

“Proclaim liberty throughout the land for all of its inhabitants.” This verse from Leviticus 25 was chosen to be inscribed on the Liberty Bell. Liberty… Freedom… It is under the banner of these ideas that the valiant members of our armed forces have fought for centuries. In the 20th century, 16,000,000 fought and hundreds of thousands of our brave men and women gave their lives to defend freedom against totalitarianism, the great generation of WWII.

In two weeks from today the Jewish people will be observing Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and sound the Shofar–ram’s horn. The motifs of Rosh Hashanah include a day of renewal, a day of judgement, a day of Divine Coronation, and also a day of remembrance. We ask that the Al-mighty remember us in mercy.

Just as we ask of the Al-mighty to remember, we too must be diligent in keeping sacred and strong, the memories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our United States of America. We must never forget those who died so that we could live as free people in this glorious land. We must honor the lives of those who served as the guardians of liberty for each and every one of us.

We pray for the safety of the members of the armed forces, and we pray for the souls of those who lost their lives in the service. May their souls be bound in the bond of life with Al-mighty G-d. To paraphrase the words of Jonathan to David in the book of Samuel, "Go in peace! May the L-rd be between us and you forever.”

I will now sound the Shofar as a clarion call to remember and to usher in a sweet new year for all. May G-d bless this assembly. May G-d bless our armed forces. May G-d bless the United States of America.” The Shofar is sounded.

After the ceremony was over I went over to pay respects to an elderly member of the audience, the wife of the Jewish WWII vet who was on stage. She told me, “Rabbi that was such a wonderful presentation and sounding of the shofar. I felt so proud to be Jewish at that moment.” Needless to say, hearing that I enabled someone to experience pride in the Jewishness absolutely made my day. 

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Comments on: A Shofar at the WWII Museum

Ellen W. Kessler wrote...

I think your speech was excellent and had to appeal to your entire audience, Jew and non Jew.