New Jersey Couple Honors Family Members with Gift to Heritage Site
By Jaime Banks
Ammunition Hill holds great significance in the formation of the modern Jewish State. First established by the British in the 1930’s as a police academy and weapons repository, the strategic location was captured by the Jordanians in the 1948 War of Independence, splitting Jewish Jerusalem in two. In the Six-Day War of 1967, about 150 Israeli paratroopers staged a daring assault to recapture the site. In bloody, hand-to-hand combat, the Israelis emerged victorious, but not without sustaining severe losses — 36 killed, 90 wounded.
Jewish National Fund-USA, together with the Municipality of Jerusalem and the Government of Israel, has been instrumental in developing and renovating Ammunition Hill as a heritage site, which includes a museum and memorial where visitors, young and old, can learn about what transpired there. JNF-USA has also established The Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill, which pays tribute, by name, to the heroism and courage of Jewish soldiers throughout history who fought in loyal defense of the countries in which they lived.
Diane Osen Covkin and husband Rick Covkin, of Springfield, NJ, both grew up in homes that included a mix of Jewish cultural traditions, as well as a strong attachment to Israel. Diane’s father was born and raised in pre-war Germany, her mother in Charleston, WV. Rick’s dad was of Russian-Ashkenazi descent, while his Brooklyn-born mom had Syrian-Sephardi roots.
“Our parents melded their traditions,” Diane notes. “Yet across their different backgrounds the one thing they all had in common was a love of the Jewish people and a love of Israel.”
Diane shares that her parents chose to honeymoon in Israel in 1954. “They brought beautiful, well-made clothing with them, including men’s suits, to donate for people to wear to services.”
She herself first visited while in high school, spending three months as a volunteer on kibbutz. As a young family, the Covkins visited Israel often with their daughter, who later took her own gap year there before starting college. “Israel has always been important to our family,” Diane affirms.
After losing the last of their parents in 2014, Diane and Rick decided to honor their parents in memory with a gift to JNF-USA’s Heritage Site at Ammunition Hill. Diane says they were drawn to the project for its significance to the outcome of the 1967 war. “We were thrilled that there would be a new facility to help educate visitors about the events that occurred during that battle and about the importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people, to the state of Israel, and to the entire world.”
According to Diane, the JNF-USA gift embodies what she and Rick learned growing up about the importance of giving. Her father was a congregational cantor who “raised us to always look for opportunities where you can help” and Rick grew up with the same values.
“As a result,” she says, “we are excited to give. We look forward to giving with love.” She and Rick support JNF-USA because “JNF-USA supports every demographic in Israel and every important project aimed at developing, sustaining and protecting Israel. In that sense, I believe it is unique.”
Along with Diane and Rick, family members Barbara and Bob Cohen, and Sharon Osen, also participated in the Ammunition Hill gift, which honors Rose and Harry Covkin, David and Shirley Osen, and Bob’s parents Jerry and Jeanette Cohen.
An active volunteer at Congregation Israel of Springfield (NJ), Diane is a former communications professional and freelance writer, as well as the librettist of an opera version of Jane Eyre that was produced in 2016. Rick, now retired, was a managing director and institutional bond trader at Raymond James.
For more information about JNF-USA’s Wall of Honor, visit jnf.org/ammunitionhill.