Here I am, Hineini

September 1, 2011
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This sterling silver buckle (created by master silversmith Ľudovít Martonyik, Košice, Slovakia, using the “David” typeface by Itamar David) and kittel belt (sewn by Silvia Koperdáková, Košice) were created for Zuzana Riemerová & Shawn Landres’s August 2001 chuppah, “the first full-scale, traditional Jewish wedding of a Kosice Jewish community member” since the Shoah. Landres writes, “I didn’t really expect the buckle to be as big - and the text as ‘loud’ - as it is. But in the context of my wedding in post-Shoah, postsocialist Košice, especially as my mother was born in pre-war Bratislava and I reclaimed my Slovak citizenship as an act of moral restitution, the message, ‘Here I am,’ took on an additional dimension.”

Here I am, Hineini


Hineini is the moment of crossing the line, of making the decision, of claiming the path. Hineini is that moment of response to a situation in the world, to the cry of another person. There are many reasons to ignore the cry. There is only one reason not to: the clear knowledge that it is for this reason that you are here, that responding to that cry is part of what it means to be a person created in the image of God.
I recognize this moment in a black-and-white photograph of Diane Nash from 1961. The snapshot shows Nash as a young, courageous civil rights organizer in Nashville; she is looking straight ahead and her face is projecting both an understanding of what is ahead and an indomitable determination.

Diane Nash organized the second wave of Freedom Riders after the first wave was stopped by violence in Anniston and Birmingham, Alabama. Even though most of the first group ended up in the hospital as a result of racist violence abetted by the police, Nash defiantly organized the second ride to prove that massive violence was not going to stop the nonviolent campaign.
That black-and-white photograph of the beautiful 20-something organizer, looking determinedly into the coming maelstrom, screams in its silent dignity “hineini.”

Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, a Sh’ma Advisory Committee member, is a professor of Talmud at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He is author of the forthcoming book, Justice in the City: Toward a Community of Obligation. In July 2010, he was arrested for civil disobedience while demonstrating in support of Unite Here, the workers union fighting the Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp.

Here I am, Hineini

Elie Kaunfer

Whenever God spoke to Moshe, the midrash tells us, God said: “Moshe, Moshe.” And Moshe always responded “Hineini.” (Sifra 1:10-11) Imagine living a life responding to every utterance of your name with “Hineini.” True presence and focus begin with the call of the other, the beckon of the mysterious divine. What if that life wasn’t reserved only for our ancestors? Striving to be present and remaining open to the divine call, even when challenging and difficult, is my attempt to walk in Moshe’s path.

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer is executive director of Mechon Hadar (

Here I am, Hineini

Hadar Susskind

”Hineini” means “here I am” but the power of the phrase is far greater. It is the acceptance of a charge; taking on a task or responsibility. Hinieni. I was enveloped by it as I stood guard in Beaufort in Lebanon, buttressed by it as I rose to speak as a delegate at the World Zionist Congress, inspired by its ancient call as I walk the halls of Congress. Like my ancestors before me, I am here. Hinieni.

Hadar Susskind is vice president of policy and strategy at J Street.

Here I am, Hineini

Erica Brown

In a world full of distractions, the proper way to translate “Hineni” today is “I am fully present.” I am fully present in my life. I am fully present with my children. I am fully present in my job. I am fully present when I am in conversation with you. I am fully present as a servant of God. This means paying closer attention to the sacred duties I assume and trying to live on higher ground. I am fully present as a Jew. I am fully present as a citizen of the world, partnering in its perfection. Being fully present today — with the challenges of technology — cannot be assumed. It is hard work; an aspiration.

Erica Brown, scholar-in-residence at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, is the author, most recently, of In the Narrow Places: Daily Inspiration for the Three Weeks (OU/Koren).

Here I am, Hineini

Moty Cristal

Avraham stood ready to act with no doubts about the need to fulfill a mission. “Hineini” is an answer to a call, and with regional winds of change that could turn into promising reality, spirits, or a devastating storm, “Hineini” for young Israelis today is a call to engage: constructively engage with our neighbors in order to support the democratic powers; enthusiastically engage with Jewish communities around the globe in order to shift how Israel is perceived — not a “shelter” but a “magnet” for Jews around the world; and critically engage with the Jews in Israel who are tampering with the delicate balance of a Jewish and democratic state.

Moty Cristal is an expert on complex negotiation and crisis management, and an active participant in global Jewish conversations.

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