Shalom Weil
in memoriam

Yossi Hershkovitz z”l: A great leader and my dear friend

Sgt. Maj. (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz (Israel Defense Forces)
Sgt. Maj. (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz (Israel Defense Forces)

The things I recounted and eulogized at the funeral of my soulmate, the respected educational leader Yossi Hershkovitz z”l:

Yossi, when we discussed lofty educational dreams, you made sure to demonstrate them with a practical example you had studied. As your student, I will act this way and share in your daily moments as a dedicated educator at the forefront of Israel’s education.

In our joint effort to investigate and educate the boys at Ort Pelech Boys School in Jerusalem, we worked shoulder to shoulder, in a professional and sincere partnership.

The incident occurred on one of the days we worked together, me as head of school and you as deputy and pedagogical director. There was a report that a student in one of the classes disturbed another child during the break in the football game.

There is no way we can live like that. You said it firmly. Regardless of your busy schedule, your fascinating meetings, or the brilliant and innovative pedagogical moves you led, you immediately decided to investigate. After running between students and teachers, asking questions and discussing the incident, sitting for hours in front of security cameras, you finally got to the bottom of what happened. Indeed, a senior student of ours bullied the younger guys.

As you escorted the student into our office, you closed the door behind you. The student sat in a chair with a shy expression on his face.

A paternal hand was placed on his shoulders, he looked at you at eye level, and you spoke to him in a sweet tone, with a loving look in his eyes.

Can you explain what happened? What motivated you to do that? We’ve known each other since seventh grade. Your character doesn’t match it, and it doesn’t suit you.

How are you doing? Are things going well at home, with friends, and with your parents?

His eyes were reddened. A little shiver went through him. He talked about his difficulties at home with his younger brother, and about his parents not being available to him, and about his feelings.

How can I help you, you asked?

How can I help you cope?

It was clear that the boy was completely confused. Afterwards, he said that he missed spending time with his parents.

Hugging him, you called his parents in his presence, and spoke to them. They were words of guidance and advice and guidance, words of sweetness and fatherhood. Your final question was, how do you take care of your parents, and how do you correct your actions with students who are younger than yourself.

In addition, you discussed what it means to be great and our role in the world. Every decision and action you take affects your future and all of us, you said. Even your family can be affected, as well as our entire school. Ours. The school belongs to all of us.

As he left the room, the boy’s eyes sparkled, determined to be inspired by you and change his world for the better because of you.

According to you, he might change his life because of this story. In any case, it will change both of our lives for the better.

Yossi, we have had thousands of soulful conversations, often in the middle of the night or at odd hours. In every conversation, you would begin by telling me about your beloved Hadas and about your children. Afterward, you would be free to ask complex and sensitive questions about details for the benefit of Pelech Banim’s students and teachers. As a brilliant scholar, you loved asking, investigating and finding out in depth, and then coming to a conclusion you carried out exactly as you intended. Humbly and professionally. Without them knowing, without the world knowing and knowing. Doron and Mor, the principals you took charge of in your absence, were kind enough to describe you this morning with your students, as such a rare combination of leadership kindness and bravery, the violinist and the gunman, Safra and Seifa.

One day after the Memorial Day ceremony at school, you escorted me to the parking lot. Suddenly, you saw a small Israeli flag thrown on the floor. It was picked up, straightened, kissed, and put in your pocket after you got it. It’s going to the Geniza. Where the flag’s place is.

Yossi, a man of details and great news, a man of true labor and honesty.

When you are wrapped around an Israeli flag, you are beautiful. This fits your way and your leadership.

But Yossi, aren’t you more beautiful, when you stand in the leadership of our community and our people, and lead us in the name of Israel?

I gained a true friendship from you. A soulmate who knows with integrity and enormous humility to confront and let go, to learn and improve.

Look here for a moment at the many, many students you have placed, like me. Children, teenagers, educators, seniors. Everyone learns from you even now.

Public sacrifice is too great for our people.

May we all be worthy of you for your devotion and sacrifice.

About the Author
Shalom Weil is the CEO of Yesodot – The Center for Torah and Democracy, and the founding head of Pelech Ort High School for boys in Jerusalem. Shalom has an MBA from Hebrew University and an MPA from Harvard Kennedy School as well as several years of religious studies in Yeshivat Ma'ale Gilboa, and leadership programs Avney Rosha, Mandel and Wexner.
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