With the cosponsorhip and support of more than 20 synagogues and agencies from across the region and state — including from the neighboring Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ region — a solidarity rally for Israel on Sept. 7 drew over 350 people to Bridgewater.
The rally was organized by the Jewish Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties at the Shimon and Sarah Birnbaum JCC, a cosponsor.
Bridgewater-Raritan High School sophomore Ethan Shiman kicked off the event by recounting the rocket attacks he witnessed during a trip with the NJ Y Camps to Israel in July.
He said he was impressed by how Israelis managed to keep their daily lives going despite the rockets. “I now have a greater understanding and a deeper insight into the sacrifices made by the State of Israel to create a safe homeland for all Jews,” he said.
SHW federation president Steven Lieberman welcomed the crowd, saying, “We stand with Israel because her citizens have the right to live their lives uninterrupted by the whine of air raid sirens. We stand with Israel because her children should not suffer the trauma of sleeping in bomb shelters. And we stand with Israel because her citizens want and have the right to live in peace with their neighbors.”
Other speakers included Amir Sagie, deputy consul general of Israel in NY; Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Dist. 7); NJ Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Dist. 19); Pastor Andrew J.J. Paton from the Church of the Nazarene in Clinton; and Hillsborough residents Ronit and Sabi Bivas, who were also in Israel during the recent conflict.
Sagie spoke about anti-Israel bias in the media. “The Israeli people are staying strong despite all the rhetoric against us,” he said. “The fact that we come together tonight is a direct action that makes Israel stronger and shows Israelis how much Americans care about them.”
He also thanked the U.S. government, noting that “Israel and America have an unbreakable alliance — it is shown in the Iron Dome system.”
“Israel is the only real democracy in the Middle East,” said Lance, who serves as cochair of the Republican Israel Caucus. “Hamas is a terrorist organization and should be condemned as a terrorist organization by all civilized men and women….”
Wisniewski said it is allies like Israel “that enable the United States to have a viable Middle Eastern policy, and without that symbiotic relationship between the two countries, the world would be a more unsafe place.”
Paton told the gathering he was “a gentile boy from Africa who fell in love with the Bible and the place from which it came. Israel has a right to exist as a nation-state of the Jewish people, and it has that right because the God of King David has made them that promise.”
Cantor Vadim Yucht and Rabbi Ron Isaacs of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater led the crowd in songs of peace, and a proclamation in support of Israel from Bridgewater Mayor Daniel J. Hayes Jr. was read.
Rally organizer Eric Lavitsky, chair of the SHW federation’s CRC, said the rally was “an unprecedented event for our community” and that he was proud that hundreds had come together to support Israel.
Cosponsors included the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ in Whippany and Rutgers Hillel in New Brunswick.