Michael Boyden

The Helicopter Crash and Leo Baeck

Lt.-Col. Erez Sachyani and Major Chen Fogel have been identified as the two pilots killed in the tragic helicopter crash off the coast of Haifa on Monday evening.

Strangely and coincidentally, as well as both serving at the Ramat David Airbase located southeast of Haifa, what also connects them is that Fogel was a graduate of the Leo Baeck High School in Haifa, while Sachyani’s wife, Danna, served as a teacher there.

Leo Baeck was a German Reform rabbi, scholar and theologian, who represented all German Jewry during the Nazi era until he was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943.

Unlike three of his sisters, Baeck survived the Holocaust and moved to London, where he became President of the North Western Reform Synagogue where I grew up. He also served as Chairman of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

On the 1st anniversary of his death in 1956, the German Federal Republic issued a postage stamp in his honour. While its ambassador to Great Britain at the time attended his funeral, the then Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie chose to stay away.

Notably, there is not a single street in Israel named after Baeck, but then he was a Reform rabbi. However, the name Leo Baeck lives on through the impressive educational institution in Haifa named in his memory and graduates like Major Chen Fogel z”l, who contribute so much to our country.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.
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