(JNS) Allan Englander usually commemorates Sept. 11 at the Tribeca Synagogue, where he was having breakfast after morning minyan that Tuesday in 2001 when he heard a plane had hit the World Trade Center. “We didn’t believe it at first—somebody called in, and we all rushed out and ran to the corner, where we had a view of the World Trade Center,” he recalls. “I got there just in time to see the second plane crash into the tower.”
On the anniversary of that day, they pray, have breakfast, remember how it was, what they were doing and how they felt, he says. “I try to make an effort to go there on 9/11 simply because it’s reminiscent, it’s remembering,” he says.
Jewish groups across New York City marked America’s worst acts of international terrorism with the backdrop of Shabbat this year. For some, that means moving programming to the surrounding days; for others, it means having a group of community members gathered to remember together.
On that day, they will recall four airplanes hijacked by nineteen Islamic extremists, who flew two of the planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third that hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and a fourth plane that crashed in an open field in Shanksville, Pa., killing two thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven people.
When regular Shabbat services are over at noon, Rabbi Jonathan Glass of the Tribeca Synagogue and his community welcomed in clergy from different faiths to honor the victims and pray for peace. They used a large outdoor space for the commemoration, where they hosted pre-registered attendees.
“I felt it was very, very important to do something,” he explains. They partnered with other area organizations and heard from a woman who was the synagogue’s office manager at the time as well.
“What we will accomplish simply by marking the occasion to the degree that we are … we are showing we don’t forget, and that this was a very significant event,” he says. “Just because it’s twenty years later, it doesn’t become relegated to the dustbin of history. The people who died, they mattered, and the survivors were seriously affected. We don’t take this lightly.”
Although Shabbat isn’t a day for mourning, there are still appropriate ways to mark the event, he says. “Sometimes on Shabbat, we memorialize things; we recite the memorial prayer when it’s the anniversary of the passing of a person, we say Kaddish,” he explains. “It just has to be adjusted so you don’t go overboard. It’s not, in essence, antithetical to Shabbat; it just has to be done in the proper context.”
Dorot, an organization that works to address social isolation among older adults and seniors, is aiming to involve more than one thousand volunteers in 9/11 Day Activities, according to Laura Colin Klein, director of volunteer services. They’ve delivered care packages to older adults in Manhattan and Westchester and followed up with phone calls to discuss with recipients what the events of Sept. 11 mean to them. They’re also going to facilitate intergenerational phone discussions between teens and older adults, host an intergenerational art project where participants will make commemorative medallions, and invite volunteers to make cards for veterans and active duty service members. The organization doesn’t run programs on Shabbat, so they spread events throughout September, including a package delivery on Sept. 12 and 13.
“The messaging around this program for us is coming together as a community to recognize an important event in our nation’s history—to reflect together and serve together,” says Colin Klein.
“I hope people feel more connected to their community so that they’re part of something bigger,” she adds, “that both the older adults and the volunteers feel like they have a really good experience from being involved and doing something for someone else.”
Manhattan resident Lori Klamner has been volunteering with Dorot for more than two decades. “Especially in New York City, that generation really remembers 9/11,” she says of the package recipients. “It was one of the major events in their lives. And I think it really is important to them to not forget about it, not to have it be forgotten by society.”
Klamner shared her own experience as well—of waiting to hear from her sister, who was on an airplane that day. “On 9/11, I think a lot of people want to do something meaningful, whether it’s help clean up a garden or help in a school. This is the thing I like to do,” she says.
Dorot volunteer Jennifer Weintraub will drop off packages and chats by phone with residents as part of the initiative. Weintraub was in high school in 2001 and living on Long Island, but she remembers how close the event felt for her class, many of whom had parents and other relatives working in New York City.“I think the sentiment still carries through,” says Weintraub. “It feels shocking to realize it’s been that many years.”
Other events that took part around the city included a memorial walk on Friday, Sept. 10 through the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, a concert through the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra timed to start after Shabbat, and two talks at the 92nd Street Y on Thursday and Friday—one with Jim O’Grady, who covered 9/11 with The New York Times, and the other about the impacts of 9/11 and other environmental factors on physical and mental health.