Jason Yehoshua Friedberg, an Israeli soldier kidnapped and killed by Palestinian terrorists on Purim 1993 was remembered on the 20th anniversary of his graduation from Herzliah High School in St. Laurent where Jason is still remembered, honoured and loved by those who knew him.
Yehoshua was the embodiment of true Zionism. He left the comfort of a safe North American city with a sizeable and influential Jewish community so that he could contribute to the defense and development of the Jewish state. He enrolled in an institution of higher religious education to further instill himself with the traditions that are meant to guide Jews and Israelis, and then set out to defend those traditions and those people simply because he was one of them.
Hundreds, including the Friedberg family, community leaders, school staff present and past, Israeli Consul-General Marc Attali, students of the graduating class of 1985 and current students gathered in the Herzliah gymnasium as artifacts from Friedberg’s life were unveiled for placement in a special showcase. Graduate Stacey Dworkin-Pressman, who came in from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, added a crystal basketball sculpture to the showcase.
Candles were lit in tribute, a choir sang and students of the ’85 graduation class and staff shared their memories of Jason. He was remembered as a fellow student, a devotee of Israel and a standout on Herzliah’s basketball team. His goodness shone through and that is what his friends were trying to convey to the students listening to the tribute – that lives are touched very deeply by good deeds and those deeds will be remembered.
Frank Cwilich, the senior teacher on Herzliah’s staff said the purpose of the ceremony was to enable today’s students to maintain a connection with Friedberg. “We’re here so that you know what it means to have somebody go through our school system than we can be so proud of, as we are of all our graduates.”
Rabbi Dr. Mordecai Zeitz said Jason went the extra mile in his devotion to Israel, Torah and his fellow man. “He showed by example what could be done by doing a little bit more”. “Although he was physically taken, he remains with us,” said Rabbi Zeitz who knew Yehoshua from his involvement in Beth Tikvah where he lived before moving to Israel. “We hear the sound of his life reverberating over and over again.”
Rabbi Baruch Plaskow, originally from England and now with Montreal’s Kollel Torah Mitzion Learning Centre said he was inspired by Friedberg to remain in Israel and serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. “I say this to my students every single year and I say it to the family – I dedicate everything I have ever done to Yehoshua’s memory” he said in an emotional speech “because I’m convinced….everything we do is in his memory.”
Marc Attali said Friedberg was one of many Israeli victims of terror, “a terror committed by those savages who have chosen to undermine Israel’s very existence.”
Sitting in the audience, Jason’s mother Dena, was happy to hear his friends and classmates still felt a connection to her son. She was with her husband Herb and two children David and Jennifer. “We were very touched.” She said. “He obviously had a real impact.”
Herb Friedberg, Yehoshua’s father, went further pointing out that 22, 000 have been killed in defense of Israel’s continued existence. “Those 22,000 have a ripple effect: he said “every one of them had as many or more people than gathered here that respected and loved them. Because of each of them, we’re standing here, living free.”