This issue was a particularly difficult one to work on. Reading the personal reminiscences of family members who lost loved ones, poring over first person-accounts of those who were there, trapped in the chaotic and ash-filled streets, brought me back ten years ago to the ominous day in American history now known as 9/11. I had just emerged from a mourning period myself—the day before 9/11, I had gotten up from sitting shivah for my mother. On the morning of 9/11, I no longer grieved alone. I grieved with an entire city, an entire nation.
So many innocent lives were lost. Thousands who went to work that morning were trapped in the inferno and never made it home. One of those trapped was Nancy Morgenstern. Nancy, who worked for the large securities firm Cantor Fitzgerald, was a proud Orthodox Jew. A serious bicyclist, Nancy touched the lives of Jews and non-Jews alike, impressing everyone she met with her strong principles and dedication to her faith. Nancy made a Kiddush Hashem well before she lost her life on 9/11. While Nancy’s parents, Harvey and Suri—who are dear friends of mine—were unable to be interviewed for this issue, Nancy’s story is out there. I urge you to visit NancyMorgensternMemorial.org to learn more about Nancy and the fund the Morgensterns established in her memory.
There were so many who sanctified God’s name on that day. Who can forget people like Abe Zelmanowitz who stayed by the side of his quadriplegic friend as One World Trade Center was engulfed in flames? His remarkable story of self-sacrifice is recounted in this issue.
Who can forget the extraordinary heroism of the rescuers—the hundreds of brave New York firemen, police officers and our very own Hatzalah members? 9/11 was perhaps Hatzalah New York’s finest day, when over thirty-five ambulances from throughout the city responded, with more than 250 EMTs and fifty-five paramedics. In fact, the very first ambulance to arrive at the scene after the first plane exploded was none other than Hatzalah. Many of the 300 Hatzalah members who were there suffered injuries, some serious. But miraculously, even though they were stationed right near the collapsing Towers with steel beams and debris crashing around them, not one Hatzalah member lost his life. In this issue, Mechel Handler, the administrator of Hatzalah, recounts this extraordinary tale of heroism, self-sacrifice and endless emunah.
We could not create our 9/11 Memorial issue without including the personal stories of a few OU employees. The OU national headquarters is located only a few blocks from where the World Trade Centers once stood. On 9/11, dozens of OU employees who were either on their way to work or in their offices when the planes crashed witnessed the carnage and spent hours trying to escape the then hellish streets of downtown Manhattan.
Ten years is but a moment from the perspective of history. And while the pain and memory of 9/11 are permanently seared into our consciousness, it may very well be premature to evaluate 9/11 and how it has dramatically altered our lives and the lives of all Americans. Nevertheless, we asked several prominent rabbis and Jewish thinkers to reflect on the lessons of that dreadful day. We asked: What have we, as Jews, and as Americans, learned in the past decade? What has 9/11 taught us? How has it shaped us? And, most importantly, what messages of hope, optimism and faith can emerge from the darkness and despair of 9/11?
This kind of reflection is certainly appropriate as we prepare for the awe-filled days of the Yamim Noraim. Also in preparation for the serious and introspective days ahead, we interviewed Cantor Yosef Malovany, famed chazzan of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue Synagogue for the past thirty-eight years, and learned how he readies himself for the spiritual intensity of the Yamim Noraim. Additionally, we feature a Q and A with Ruth Lichtenstein, editor of Witness to History—a unique textbook on the Holocaust that unlike any other such work emphasizes the spiritual heroism and fortitude of those who were murdered.
On a lighter note, we take a look at the surging Israeli economy and explore how Israel has gone from being a tourist destination to one of the leading investment destinations in the world.
Of course, we also offer our usual array of articles on books, family life, halachah, kosher food and more. Before signing off, I would like to take a moment to welcome the newest members of the OU Communications Commission: Mayer Fertig, director of media relations, Yeshiva University; Barbara Lehmann Siegel, member of the OU Board of Directors and OU Executive Committee; Dr. Herbert Schlager, professor of English, Touro College and Yeshiva University; Rabbi Gil Student, director, AIG’s Global Actuarial and Value Management Department, and founder and editor of Torahmusings.com and Michael C. Wimpfheimer, OU senior vice president. We look forward to working together with this stellar group in producing a first-rate publication. I wish all of you a meaningful Yamim Noraim.