Sunshine Mission Visits American Independence Park

Thursday, June 14, 2012 10:23 AM

The JNF USA Sunshine Mission, led by renowned actor Hal Linden, visited American Independence Park in the Judean Hills.

The JNF USA Sunshine Mission, led by renowned TV and theatre actor Hal Linden, visited American Independence Park in the Judean Hills this week and attended a moving ceremony there. Hal Linden also serves as a spokesman for JNF USA, and he has been actively involved in the organization for the last fifteen years. "Israel was always a part of my life," he said.

Hal Linden addresses ceremony participants in front of the Bar and Bat Mitzva Wall. Photo: Yoav Devir

Bar Mitzva Plaque for Hal's grandson Justin. Photo: Yoav Devir

At the ceremony, Linden unveiled a plaque in honor of his grandson Justin, who was celebrating his bar mitzvah. The plaque is on the special bar and bat mitzvah wall created by KKL-JNF in the forest several years ago, in order to recognize bar mitzvah boys and bat mitzvah girls who adopted Jewish children who perished in the Holocaust. On the wall, which is designed in the form of a Torah scroll, the names of the bar and bat mitzvahs are engraved next to the names of the children who perished in the Holocaust and did not live to reach bar or bat mitzvah age.
And so, right near Justin’s name, was the name of Israel Boernsztein, who was killed when he was only a child. “Finally, little Israel, may he rest in peace, is having a bar mitzvah,” said Linden to everyone present. Linden spoke with emotion about having been to Yad Vashem with his entire family when he was last in Israel. After that trip, Justin said he would like to celebrate his bar mitzvah, although he had previously never shown any particular interest in his Jewish roots.
“A bar mitzvah is a way for the community to tell the child that he or she has grown up, and that the time has come for him or her to take responsibility,” said Linden. “No less, however, it is a way for the son or daughter to tell the community that he or she wishes to be part of it.”
Linden was delighted with the celebrations, as was the attentive audience. One of his guests, Melinda Wolf, hugged him and said, “This is the real you, not a part you are playing.”
American Independence Park was established in appreciation of the American people, whose generosity deepens the friendship between both nations. It is also a recognition site for JNF USA donors, whose contributions continue to assist KKL-JNF in executing numerous projects all over Israel for the benefit of the people and the environment.
“I feel like part of a group that is working together on a shared journey connecting us to one another, and to our brothers and sisters in Israel,” said Melinda Wolf of the Women’s Sapphire Society.

Evelyn Berkowitz is awarded the Women's Sapphire Society medal. Photo: Yoav Devir

Another member of the Society, Evelyn Berkowitz, was awarded the Women’s Sapphire Society medal in honor of the occasion, and as a token of appreciation for her great devotion.
Joan and Bart Levenson noted that the work done by KKL-JNF assists tangible projects, which are cared for and maintained over many years.
Anna Taylor and Dorothy Linowes expressed their elation about being in Israel and about the opportunity to be part of the group.
Howard Schulman talked about their tour to the Negev the day before, where they had seen how the land of Israel has been developing. They were especially impressed by the contribution KKL-JNF projects makes for the residents of the Negev. “We have been to all the tourist sites in Israel, many times,” he said, “but, this time, we were privileged to see other sides of the country.”
Martin Gerotwol unveiled a plaque in memory of his parents. He needed no words to express his feelings. His face said everything.
Matthew Bernstein works for JNF USA, but he participated in the trip not only as one of the organizers of the mission, but also as a friend of KKL-JNF. He unveiled a plaque in memory of his father and said, “JNF is a family, not just a job. When I decided to commemorate my father’s name, it was the most natural choice I could make. I am proud that his name will be here in the hills that surround Jerusalem.”
Liat Itzhak of KKL-JNF's American desk, who accompanied the group, told them how happy she was to see them returning to Israel again and again, and to see how involved they were in what goes on in Israel. “Together,” she said, “we are making a difference.”