Voices from the field

Echoes of a Shofar

By Leora Isaacs

I’ve been thinking a lot about what other half-forgotten stories I might share…

My father was an eighth generation Yerushalmi. His family was among the first settlers outside the old city in Nachalat Shiv-ah. His great-great grandfather was the miller at Montefiore’s windmill. My father was a gentle scholarly educator – who was also an area commander in the Irgun. Menahem Begin sent him to America right before the establishment of the State to avoid his imprisonment by the British at Latrun prison. He came to America, lobbied for guns and money, met my mother, became a Jewish educator, and I was born. My childhood bedtime stories were about the heroism of those who established the State; my lullabies were Betar Zionist youth movement songs.

One of the stories that I loved to hear him tell was about his younger brother, who was part of a group made up of teenagers of all the underground movements. He told me how they would go to the thin alley way in front of the Kotel (or as close as they could get to it) during the month of Elul and one of them would blow the shofar while the others would mob around to shield the shofar blower. The British had forbidden them to do so under penalty of incarceration – so this was an act of Jewish pride and defiance. My father would always shake his head in amazement that these teens from the different underground groups who normally were fierce opponents came together in unity under the “banner” of the shofar.

I remember that I somehow really connected with this story – maybe because my birthday was Rosh Hodesh Elul. Maybe because I am a “child of the 60s” and the idea of non-violent demonstrations still resonate with me. Maybe because of the “romance” of idealistic teens uniting in common purpose.

I had not thought about that story in many years – and certainly NOT in an educational way until the folks at the iCenter introduced me to the amazing educational resources contained in the video-narratives by people who took part in the establishment of the State… and there was MY story!

And then the light bulb went off! This story (and others like it) had such a profound impact on my connection to Israel, about how I think about mutual responsibility, about the symbolism I invest in the shofar, in how I think about the month of Elul… I began to think about the power of personal narratives and connections – and how I can use them to convey ideas and ideals. What hidden and semi-forgotten stories are waiting to be uncovered in my memory that will help me make meaning for myself and those whom I have the opportunity to teach and influence?

Everyone has stories. Everyone loves stories. I’ve been thinking a lot about what other half-forgotten stories I might share… May the sound of the shofar awaken us all to new insights.