A crowd of about 700 people expressed solidarity with Israel at a July 28 rally in Deal.
Sponsored by Jewish Federation of Monmouth County in partnership with nearly 20 local congregations and schools, the event filled the JCC auditorium to capacity.
With Israel in its third week of combat with Hamas in Gaza, participants expressed their solidarity with what Israel is calling “Operation Protective Edge” by waving Israeli flags and singing “Am Yisrael Chai.”
Rabbi Nasanayl Braun of Congregation Brothers of Israel in Elberon and Rabbi Aaron Schonbrun of Congregation Torat El of Oakhurst delivered opening remarks to the standing-room-only audience.
“Just like many of you, I have been consumed by the news of what’s happening in Israel. Traditionally, the month of Av is not an easy time of year for our people,” Schonbrun told the gathering. “In these past three weeks we have seen rockets fall on Israel, and tunnels that have been dug throughout Gaza to terrorize Israel, while Israel defends itself against an enemy that has no regard for human life.”
The Hebrew month of Av includes Tisha B’Av, a commemoration of a series of historical calamities that befell the Jewish people.
“We are not just one shul or one temple or one community,” Braun said. “We stand together in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel as one Jewish people.”
Among the speakers was federation president Sheryl Grutman, who read statements of support for Israel by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Dist. 6); Monmouth County Freeholder Amy Mallet and her daughter Sarah, who attended a Birthright trip to Israel during the current hostilities; and Marlboro Mayor Jonathan Hornik. Community rabbis read Psalms, said prayers for the wounded and the State of Israel, and led the audience in singing Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikva.”
Many audience members wept while viewing a televised eulogy for Max Steinberg, a “lone soldier” from California who died in Gaza on July 20, and heard a song written especially for Sean Carmeli, a lone soldier from Texas who also fell in Gaza.
Rutgers University senior Aviv Alter of Morganville delivered an impassioned speech about the struggles of her elderly grandparents, who live in battered southern Israel, and her advocacy efforts on behalf of Israel on campus.
“It is our job to defend and support our right to live freely in our native land,” said. Alter, the Rutgers Hillel Student Board’s Israel chair. She described how a recent video chat with her grandparents was interrupted by piercing sirens. “When my grandparents returned to the computer after the siren, I could see the fear, agony, and anxiety in their eyes. How is this OK?” she said. “Hamas’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians should be a wakeup call to the world that these are not people with which to make peace.
“Hamas is a terror organization that must be dismantled in order for peace to exist.”
Rabbi Cy Stanway of Temple Beth Miriam in Long Branch described to NJJN his recent visit to Israel during a 16-day vacation there with his wife. “We were in bomb shelters three or four times, and we saw the Iron Dome at work about a dozen times. We felt a sense of extended family and a bond with the Israeli people.”
The solidarity rally hit an emotional chord for Dalit Goldwert of Wayside. Her 21-year-old nephew, Yotam Shor, is currently serving in Gaza in a paratrooper unit.
“We haven’t heard from him in three weeks. His parents and grandparents are sick with worry,” she said. “For as long as I’m alive, Israel has always had to defend itself while the world criticizes its every move. If Mexico, for example, sent just one missile into the U.S., there wouldn’t be a Mexico anymore.”
Dr. Andrew Samuel of Elberon, attending the rally with his wife, daughter, and parents, said being there helped him feel as “close as we can be to Israel. Israel is our family, our homeland. When Israel is in trouble, we are in trouble,” he said.