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Belle Millo, Editor “Voices of Winnipeg Holocaust Survivors.” All photos by Rhonda Prepes.

Erez Rotem, Jewish National Fund (JNF) Director/KKL Emissary for Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta



By Rhonda J. Prepes, P. Eng.

Over 230 people attended the community-wide Yom Hazikaron memorial ceremony on Sunday, April 18, 2010  in the Berney Theatre.

Yom Hazikaron is Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day. It occurs on the 4th day of the month of Iyar, the day before Yom Ha-Atzma'ut (Israel Independence Day). Yom Hazikaron is intended to remind people of the price paid for independence and what has been achieved with soldiers' sacrifices. Yom Ha-Atzma'ut is a day of celebrations, the anniversary of the Proclamation of the State of Israel in 1948.

This year’s event was organized by representatives of Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, Jewish Child and Family Services, and Jewish National Fund (JNF). Their objective was to encourage the community to mark one of the most important days in the Jewish calendar by producing a meaningful service for everyone – Israelis, Canadians, young, and old. The committee was pleased with this year’s turnout, an increase of over 80 people from last year’s event.

JNF emissary Erez Rotem led the evening’s program, which began with a candle lighting ceremony and the sounding of a siren sounded followed by a minute of silence, as is customarily done in Israel to mark the beginning of Yom Hazikaron.

Rotem then read excerpts from a speech given by the Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Yom Hazikaron in Israel.

“I stand before you today as a warrior and commander with more than 36 years of military service, where I lost my best friends and colleagues, and came back from the killing fields with spaces in our ranks,” Rotem read. “I understand the feelings of loss and yearning. There does not pass a day where the bitter taste of yearning is absent from my and my comrades in command’s minds.”

 “The existence of the State of Israel is not an obvious thing,” Rotem continued. “We must continue to guard it from enemies even as we strive to establish here a just, developing and democratic society, a society that sanctifies the values over which the sons and daughters went on their last missions. May their memory be blessed.”

Rotem later told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, “I don’t think that you can truly understand Israel and the Israelis without taking part in their celebrations and their sadness". 

The latter part of the remembrance program featured readings by former members of the Israel Defense Forces, now living in Winnipeg, and song performances by Justin Odwak,  Elan Marchinko, Sarah Sommer and Alexandra Smolyaninov, accompanied by Tatyana Smolyaninov. A video depicting last year’s Yom Hazikaron service at Danciger High School in Kiryat Shmona also was shown. This video, taken during a Partnership 2000 (P2K) visit by Gray Academy students, served as a reminder that every Israeli has a direct connection to someone who has lost his life in war or through terrorism. The poignant video can be seen at this link.

Overall response to the Yom Hazikaron ceremony indicated that it was well done, non-political, respectful, meaningful, emotional and well worth attending. Many participants of the ceremony, those reciting a poem, reading a prayer, singing or speaking were former members of the Israeli Defense Forces.

 “The Jewish Federation has received countless emails and phone calls from Israelis, thanking us for creating such a memorable service,” says David Greaves, Financial Resource Development Associate Director for Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. “Many of these people were highly emotional and holding back tears at the ceremony. It makes us all feel extremely privileged to have been able to help to deliver a ceremony that had such an effect on people.”

Added Erez Rotem, “For me, as an Israeli, it is hard to be away from home on Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’Atzma’ut. I must say that this year’s ceremony eased the pain slightly.”

Rhonda Prepes Rhonda Prepes is an engineer, educator, mother, and writer in Winnipeg.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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