Saluting two souls: At a new fire station dedication ceremony, Jewish National Fund-USA donors commemorate two generous spirits gone too soon by giving back to Israel and its people
By Noa Amouyal
They say losing a loved one feels like losing a limb - where even if that extremity is removed, it’s lingering presence is always felt, like a phantom in the night.
The bereaved cope with such a loss in a myriad of ways.
Penny and Steven Rosen chose to give.
Their largesse was celebrated on Thursday, February 28, at a dedication ceremony unveiling a new fire station in the Northern city of Ma'alot-Tarshiha. The Rosen’s generous donation was made in the memory of their son, Adam, and was coordinated under the guidance of Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA).
“This is one of the most emotional day of our lives,” Penny Rosen, co-chair of JNF-USA’s Fire and Rescue Task Force, told the crowd of donors and dignitaries. “I stand here as a proud Zionist and as a grieving mother. To lose a child, it’s like losing a piece of your soul. When people ask me how long it’s been since Adam died, I say, ’Yesterday.’ It will always be yesterday. We lost his light, love, life, and humor. He was our gift from Hashem.”
What could have been a very somber occasion was a joyous one; a local children’s choir enveloped the audience with song as the city’s mayor spoke of Ma’alot’s recent accomplishments, growth, and firefighters - where Jews and Arabs serve side by side - proudly gathered in their new home station.
“The building of this fire station is a part of the strengthening of the internal security of Ma’alot-Tarshiha, the communities of Ma’ale Yosef, and the residents of the entire region,” the city’s recently elected mayor, Arkady Pomerantz, remarked. “Setting up this fire station will improve our firefighter’s ability to respond to and extinguish any fire, save lives, and prepare for additional security scenarios.”
The Rosens have worked closely with JNF-USA for years to reinforce Israel’s firefighting capabilities. In the north in particular, its lush greenery lends the region to frequent wildfires, which demands a robust facility to help extinguish any blazes. Currently, this is the fourth fire station made possible by JNF-USA donations and organization leaders say it’s just the beginning.
Unfortunately, when it comes to Israel’s security needs the government isn’t able to dedicate the necessary resources needed for fire prevention. As such, JNF-USA is dedicated to doing what it can to ensure the people of Israel are safe and the needs of their firefighters are met.
“We always talk about the police and IDF soldiers, but it’s the firemen who make a house a home. They are our true heroes,” JNF-USA Chief Executive Officer Russell F. Robinson said.
“From Ma’alot to Mitzpe Ramon, you’ve not just dedicated fire stations and trucks - you’ve been a voice for the first responders in Israel,” Robinson added, motioning to the Rosens. “It seems that every time we’re around the Rosen’s, some magic happens. Ten years ago, this building didn’t have electricity - look at what they’ve done. Everyone benefits from your magic.”
Rosen, for her part, was in awe of the work the firefighters do every day. “These professionals run not away from danger, but directly into it in order to save us. They are the most amazing human beings. We’re so honored to help in whatever way possible”
Ever since Ma’alot’s terrible massacre in 1974 which left 25 hostages dead, the Rosen’s were inspired to protect the Jewish state whenever and however they can.
That, and in combination with wanting to pay tribute to Adam’s generous and caring spirit, has prompted them to make days like this one possible.
Their grief is shared with Penny’s brother, Todd Blinder, who also lost his son, Jason. Blinder worked with the Rosen’s to make this fire station a reality, and seeing their dreams come to life sparked tears of both joy and grief.
“My sister and I always shared so much. But the worst thing to share is the loss of a child, which eventually happened,” Blinder said after the ceremony with lingering tears still gathering at the corners of his eyes. “Adam and Jason were very close. To have them be remembered together is really very special.”