I’ve thought a great deal about dedication lately – as one in particular drew me 6,000 miles away to a quiet, windswept corner of Tel Aviv. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we were invited to witness the naming of a beautiful new street in my father’s honor. Members of Israel’s cultural elite were present, as was the mayor of Tel Aviv and a number of musicians. As family and friends watched, my mother gently pulled aside a velvet cover to reveal a simple sign: “Distinguished violinist, humanitarian and lover of Israel.” We cried, they clapped and it was soon over.
A short concert followed, and several people spoke about my dad’s role in the nascent country’s cultural beginnings. And during the course of the many speeches, I realized that the dedication wasn’t about the ceremony at all. It was really about the intense commitment one man – my father – had for a country the world didn’t always support as passionately as he did.
Some people take the first plane out of Israel when fighting erupts. Others take the first plane back, because they know, deep within themselves, that they must bring healing in whatever way they can. My father brought his music to be a salve for those who were afraid, or anxious, or wounded, and when he played, people stopped and listened and understood he was there just for them.
My dad – alternatively described as an American, a Russian immigrant, a citizen of the world – was really an Israeli at heart. And when he landed here, he knew he was home. Long ago he promised our mother, Vera, his partner in life, that she would always be connected to this land if she agreed to marry him and move to New York. It was a promise he always kept.
Dedication is not about a ceremony; it is about what lies in one’s heart.
The same can be said as we light our candles for Hanukkah. It is not about the act of kindling the hanukiyyah; it is all about the story that was the architect of the nine branches. It is all about a small group of Jews who risked everything for the freedom to be Jewish. Not rich or famous or beloved: just Jewish.
2,000 years later, we still remember the struggle that brought down an empire and began a nation that still persists today. How amazing is that!
And it became clear to my family that it was very fitting that the place that will carry my dad’s name exists surrounded by people who feel as passionately about the country as he did. As passionate as the Maccabees who fought for that country and made it enduring, vibrant and vital. Just like him.
May his memory and his dedication always be an inspiration as well as a blessing.