A year ago, on the eve of Passover, three “angels” appeared at Miriam Peretz’s door. They did not, as she tells the tale, bring with them the prophet Elijah. Rather, they were the bearers of terrible news. Eliraz, Peretz’s second son – married and the father of four children – had been killed in an ambush near the Gaza border.
|SSDS Head of School Ruth Gafni, Miriam Peretz, and Ricky Stamler-Goldberg, SSDS Lower School assistant principal and director of Judaic studies.|
Miriam Peretz suddenly found herself thrust into the national spotlight. Mothers of fallen soldiers are, sadly, not an uncommon phenomenon in the State of Israel. But a mother who has lost two sons is unusual because the siblings of a fallen soldier are exempt from combat service. Peretz’s oldest son, Uriel, was killed in Lebanon 12 years ago at the tender age of 22. Each time one of her other sons – Eliraz, Avichai, and Eliasaf – came of age, she had to give special permission for him to join Sayeret Golani, an elite IDF combat brigade.
When you ask Peretz why she gave her permission, she states simply that although she always signed with great fear and trepidation, she was grateful for the opportunity to do her part to support the Jewish homeland. “You see,” she explains, “unlike my sons, I was not lucky enough to have been born in Israel. I was born in Morocco. In Morocco, I walked with my head always bent in fear. In Israel, I stand tall proud and unafraid.” This fortitude and stoicism has made Peretz a beloved symbol in Israel and has resulted in her being designated one of Israel’s ten most influential women.
Peretz shared her story and wisdom with the faculty at Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County, which she visited on her recent trip to the U.S. According to Schechter Head of School, Ruth Gafni, “It is a true privilege and a havaya – a remarkable experience -to be in the presence of, to learn from, and to honor someone who has done what Miriam has done. She is an inspirational role model to us all.”
While at Schechter, Peretz, an educator and past principal of an Israeli Tali school – an enriched Judaic Studies school, joined the first graders as they danced to Israeli folk songs and marveled at the sight of pre-schoolers learning Suzuki violin. She also reconnected with one of her teachers, Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, who is serving as Congregation Beth Sholom of Teaneck’s interim Rabbi while on sabbatical from his pulpit in Jerusalem. Peretz was in the U.S. to speak at the Friends of the IDF 30th Anniversary dinner, which raised $23 million on behalf of the soldiers of Israel.
As part of the Schechter’s experts, eyewitnesses, and role models program, Peretz joins a list of visiting dignitaries this year that includes current members of Israel’s Knesset, a NASA astronaut, and the national vice- president of the Jewish National Fund.