By Jill Fox
As the heartbreaking and painful day of February 14 approaches, a sculpture with a special meaning is about to be unveiled at the Chabad of Parkland to immortalize the 17 angels and all who have been affected by the events that took place two years ago.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Eagles Nesher Memorial is made up of 3,320 eagles representing every student who was present on February 14, 2018. These eagles form the shape of 17 larger eagles who are soaring to heaven through a heart.
“So much of what has been done has been about the 17 victims, but the truth is, every student who was there that day was affected, and that was the inspiration behind it,” said Rabbi Shuey Biston.
During the unveiling, the 17 eagles, inscribed with each of the victim’s names, will be placed into the wall by a family member or special representative.
Rabbi Biston said the sculpture has multiple meanings. Nesher, the Hebrew word for “Eagle” is also the name of an Israeli city, which Broward County has a close partnership with.
While visiting Israel, Rabbi Biston observed an incredible display of hearts and butterflies that caught his eye. He did some research on the artwork, and later commissioned world-renowned visual artist and sculptor, Joel Amit to create a one-of-a-kind memorial for the Parkland synagogue.
Born in Jerusalem and known for his sculptures of butterflies, fish, birds and feathers, Amit finds his process to be a liberating one. He worked with Rabbi Biston on the concept, design, and implementation of the memorial for a year and a half.
The memorial will be mounted in the lobby of the Michael & Betsy Brauser Chabad of Parkland Center for Jewish Life, where children enter daily for Hebrew school. Biston said, this way, the children will know it is a place where they can rebuild and regrow, while keeping in mind what was taken from them.
One of the 17 victims, Alyssa Alhadeff, was bat mitzvahed in the synagogue and her father, Ilan, will speak at the ceremony with other representatives from the community, including Mayor Christine Hunschofsky and Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine.
A playground in Alyssa’s honor will be completed on the grounds later this year.
The MSD Nesher Memorial completion and unveiling ceremony will take place on Thursday, February 13, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Chabad of Parkland, located at 7170 Loxahatchee Road.