S.F candlelight vigil marks 5th yahrzeit of Yitzhak Rabin

On Nov. 4, 1995, Seth Brysk of San Francisco attended a rally in Tel Aviv. He was living in Israel at the time, and as a Tel Aviv University student, he helped to organize what turned out to be a massive show of support for peace.

It also turned about to be, of course, the rally after which Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was shot dead.

"Being there is something I'll never forget," Brysk said. "It's a feeling I'll never be able to shake."

On Saturday night, Brysk joined about 300 others in a candlelight vigil and service in San Francisco's Mission District, not only to mark the fifth yahrzeit of the slain prime minister, but to express their hopes that the vision of peace is not lost in the latest violence.

The service, at Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, was sponsored by the Israel Center of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, the Jewish Community Relations Council, AIPAC American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Consulate General of Israel, in cooperation with the synagogue.

"I hope there can be a return to nonviolence as a way of solving the conflict," Brysk said.

Elliott Toporek of Burlingame agreed. "At this time we need to seek peace," he said, noting that he came to the vigil to "remember a great man."

And Anna Cooper of San Francisco said, "I just felt I had to be here."

Cooper and her husband had been walking in the Marina District five years ago when they heard the news.

"We were just standing at a corner and trying to figure out what to do with ourselves," she said. "We ended up going to synagogue that evening to be with other people who felt the way we did."

Others spoke of the need to continue on the track Rabin forged.

"Now it's especially important to remember the path we were on, and make sure it didn't die with him," said Mina Yaroslavsky of San Francisco.

"We support what he believed in," said Sandra Monasch of Burlingame. "We don't want all his struggles to go for naught."

The procession, carrying candles and Israeli flags, began outside the synagogue at Dolores and 16th Street and went around the block.

After a slide show of images from Rabin Square that Israeli photographer Tal Gluck took after the assassination, several people spoke and Havdallah was marked.

While mourning Rabin seemed to bring everyone together, the speakers acknowledged a diversity of opinions about the current crisis.

Emphasizing that "the Jewish community in the Bay Area has diverse opinions about recent events," Michael Futterman, the Middle East strategic committee chair of the JCRC, said "we Jews have a broad and deep conscience in support of peace — not only of the peace process, but of peace.

"We recognize the suffering of Palestinians and mourn their dead," he added, "but we demand the same in return."

Futterman called Rabin "a man with flaws like every other human being," adding that "it was that transition from soldier to statesman that affects us most profoundly, and it was his call for reconciliation that we cherish."

Donny Inbar, the cultural attaché of the Consulate General of Israel, opened his remarks by saying, "The rarest commodities these days in Israel are hope and optimism."

Inbar said that the conflict would eventually resolve itself, because there was simply no alternative.

"The bottom line is, there will be a Palestinian state. And we will find some kind of coexistence because neither side is suicidal, and we have to learn to how to live together."

A musical trio from U.C. Berkeley, Kol Ha'Dov, sang "Shir L'Shalom," the song Rabin sang with the crowd at the peace rally before his death.

And Israeli journalist Gadi Taub gave the keynote address, during which he said he was less pessimistic than his friends.

"Both sides will have to renounce many of their dreams," he said, adding that rather than a setback, the current violence was "demonstrating the ferocity of two national movements and their tenacity."

El Male Rachamim was chanted, Kaddish was recited, "Hatikvah" was sung, and the mourners moved outside.

A large photograph of Rabin was propped against the synagogue, with candles spelling out "shalom" flickering on the sidewalk.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."