Israeli American hostage has Virginia roots

Hersh Goldberg-Polin, a 23-year-old Israeli American hostage held in Gaza, spent part of his childhood in Richmond, Va. before his family made aliyah to Israel in 2008. His Virginia roots go even further back, to Portsmouth, where Hersh’s grandparents and young family lived until 1969, before returning to their hometown of Chicago where Jonathan, Hersh’s father, was born.

“Our family has fond memories of our years in Portsmouth. My father used to say, ‘Virginia is my favorite state!’” says Abby Polin, Hersh’s aunt and Jonathan’s older sister.

The extended Polin family was together for Passover in Florida last month, including Hersh’s 85-year-old grandmother, Leah, when the video of Hersh in captivity was released.

“It was overwhelming but proof of life,” says Abby. Jonathan and his wife, Rachel Goldberg-Polin, were notified of the video by the Israeli and U.S. governments, 45 minutes in advance of its circulation.

When asked by the television news program, Morning Joe, about when the video may have been filmed, Rachel Goldberg-Polin replied, “It seems, according to intelligence…they believe this was made in the last couple of days.” A medical team who specializes in analysis through a screen believes that Hersh’s arm injury is about six months old, an injury that occurred when Hersh tried throwing a grenade from the bunker where he and others were sheltering at the Nova Music Festival.
Leah, Abby, and Bonnie Polin Pomper (also Hersh’s aunt), have all gone back and forth to Washington, D.C. to advocate for Israel and the hostages, including their attendance at the March for Israel where Rachel spoke from the podium. The Polin women went to Congress and the Senate, thanking members from both sides of the aisle for their support of Israel. Abby attended President Biden’s State of the Union address in March, standing in for Rachel and Jonathan who were attending an assembly for one of their two daughters.

“I filled in for Jonathan and Rachel for three days of meetings in March. We keep up awareness and advocate in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Florida,” Abby says, referring to their hometowns.

One of Hersh’s cousins, a junior at the University of Maryland, is also advocating for Israel. At a campus event, he spoke against supporting the BDS movement, an effort to boycott, divest and sanction Israel for its oppression of Palestinians. The measure to enact BDS was voted down.

While Rachel Goldberg-Polin shared on Morning Joe that she is appreciative, grateful, and blessed that hostage families have received so much support, she emphasized that more is needed. In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Jonathan said that the new video, “lights a fire under us even more than we already had to bring him and the other 132 hostages home as fast as we can.”

Abby describes Hersh as a smart, clever, strong, and personable young man. “I hope he’s giving the same strength to other hostages,” she says. “He’s the type of guy that everyone loves.”