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Elementary & High School Students Honor Ground Zero First Responders & Local Heroes on Anniversary of 9/11

Elementary & High School Students Honor Ground Zero First Responders & Local Heroes on Anniversary of 9/11

 In recognition of the 21st anniversary of 9/11, Jewish National Fund-USA partnered with Hebrew Academy RASG, Miami Beach Fire Department (MBFD), and the Consulate General of Israel in Miami to honor MBFD Fire Chief Virgil Fernandez and first responder Shaya Gutleizer, who both aided in search and rescue efforts at “Ground Zero” on September 11, 2001, as well as local first responders who bravely serve our community. 

“Every year on the anniversary of September 11, we remember the victims of this terrible tragedy,” said Chief Fernandez. It also serves as a reminder that every day around the world, there are individuals who go to work, put on a uniform, help those in need, and who are willing to put their life on the line for others. It was a horrific day for our country, but it also brought out the very best in all of us. It’s important to continue teaching this to our children because we may all be asked at some point to be a hero for somebody. You don't have to be a first responder to be a hero.”

"As proud Americans, we want to demonstrate to our students that even in the face of great tragedy there was great unity,” added Mrs. Debbie Hamburg, Hebrew Academy Elementary School Principal. “Heroes emerged from likely places, like our first responders, and some from unlikely places, like ordinary people who did extraordinary acts of heroism. We are proud to partner with the Miami Beach Fire Department, the Israeli Consulate, and Jewish National Fund-USA in this tribute." 

The programs for the two ceremonies for elementary and high school students included 4th graders reading handwritten letters of gratitude to local heroes, a candle lighting ceremony, teaching about the terrorist attacks that forever changed our nation, and remarks from Chief Fernandez, Gutleizer, Israel Consul General Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, and Jewish National Fund-USA’s Israel Emissary, Zohar Vloski. 

Vloski presented Chief Fernandez, Gutleizer, and MBFD with a plaque featuring Jewish National Fund-USA’s and KKL-JNF’s 9/11 Living Memorial in Jerusalem — the only commemorative site of its type outside of the U.S. that lists all the names of those who perished on 9/11. The plaque represents the firefighters, paramedics, and police officers who made the ultimate sacrifice and worked tirelessly to save countless lives on that infamous day and honors first responders in our communities who risk it all to protect and serve. Established in 2009, the monument is a testament to the deep connection between the State of Israel and the U.S., and our countries’ shared values of peace, religious tolerance, democracy, and fighting terrorism. 

“It’s important to share the message of Israel's partnership, brotherhood, and solidarity with the United States with American students,” said Vloski. “This special memorial built in the Jerusalem mountains demonstrates this in the most meaningful way.”

“Israel and the U.S. are true partners, added Consul General Elbaz-Starinsky. “Marking September 11th exemplifies the shared values that we so often talk about. We share the appreciation for life, the strive for democracy and human rights, and the unequivocal war on terror and are committed to our partnership and friendship with the U.S.”

Jewish National Fund-USA will host its annual ceremony paying tribute to the victims of 9/11 at the memorial in Jerusalem on Sunday, September 11, 2022, at 11:00 am ET. Broadcasted globally on JNF-USA’s Facebook page, it will be attended by U.S Marines, the U.S. Embassy, Jerusalem chargé d'affaires, Israeli firefighters, police officers, and diplomats from around the world. The service will also honor the memory of the heroes who fell and recognized the heroes who walk among us. 

For more information, contact Zohar Vloski at

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