Solidarity for Israel demonstrated at Sandler Family Campus

by | Oct 12, 2023 | Featured

Stephanie Peck
Jewish Tidewater gathered in support of Israel on Tuesday, October 10, three days after the tiny nation was brutally attacked. Nearly 500 people, including many political dignitaries, attended the Community Solidarity Gathering for Israel to condemn the terrorist acts of Hamas against the Jewish homeland and its people, as well as to demonstrate support for the country. The early morning event took place on the Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus.

Cantor Jen Reuben of Ohef Sholom Temple opened the program by singing Oseh Shalom.

David Leon, president of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, followed with remarks about a matching financial gift to the Tidewater Supports Israel campaign, asking donors to give generously. “The creation of Israel is a modern-day miracle. Our brothers and sisters in Israel are paying the price of defending our homeland with their lives,” he said.

Leon urged those listening not to be swayed by the Palestinian supporters on the news and social media. “I guarantee you’ll hear calls for Israel to stop a disproportionate response. There is no moral equivalency here.

“No one wishes harm to everyday Palestinians,” he continued, “But these terrorists did not limit their attacks to military targets—in fact, they focused on civilians by murdering and kidnapping infants, women, children, and the elderly.”

Rabbi Gershon Litt spoke next, referencing the holiday of Simchat Torah that took place when the attacks began. Rabbi Litt noted how he was moved by Rabbi Shlomo E
isenberg’s sermon during B’nai Israel’s services. Rabbi Eisenberg explained how to celebrate the joyous holiday at a time of such sadness, horror, and disbelief. He stressed that “we are not a people to watch and wait. We can act by performing one mitzvah in memory of those we have lost and in honor of those taken captive.”

After reading a message from Senator Mark Warner, declaring that “Israel has the unequivocal right to defend itself,” Betty Ann Levin, UJFT executive vice president and CEO, announced a blood drive through Jewish Family Service and re-stated the matching donor gift to meet the pressing needs of Israel and its citizens. “I am proud to say our community has immediately responded and we will work to send funds to our overseas partners on the ground as quickly as possible so that they can begin to make an impact.”

Levin welcomed the dignitaries in attendance and thanked the elected officials for “their moral fiber and clarity to stand up for Israel.”

Representative Bobby Scott shared a resolution brought forward to Congress on October 10, stating that the House of Representatives “stands with Israel as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists.” Among its additional points, the resolution condemns Iran’s support of terrorist groups, urges full enforcement of U.S. sanctions against Iran to prevent Iran’s funding of terrorist groups, and reaffirms the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security.

Virginia’s Attorney General, Jason Miyares, recently visited Israel with his wife. He noted that, regardless of his Christian beliefs, the Israel Defense Forces provided protection during their visit. “America loves Israel because America loves democracy. Its strength is a gift.”

The morning took an even more emotional tone when Maya Ostrov and Naomi Friedland spoke. Just 18 years old, these young Israeli women are spending the year in Tidewater as Shinshinim, a program that allows recent high school graduates to delay their military service while serving Diaspora communities as Israeli ambassadors.

“We are here to serve our country, defend our people, and raise awareness,” said Ostrov. Friedland asked that everyone share facts on social media to stop misinformation. “Jewish people around the world have a safe home in Israel.”

After Cantor David Proser of Kempsville Conservative Synagogue, and president of the Hampton Roads Board of Rabbis and Cantors, read the Prayer for the State of Israel in Hebrew, attendees read the English translation together.

Annie Sandler continued the morning’s program, sharing how Virginia’s Governor Glenn Youngkin ordered the lowering of flags throughout the Commonwealth in honor of Israel.

“Virginia is the visual for the rest of the country,” she said proudly. In a statement from Youngkin, the governor wrote, “Across time – across space – the Jewish people have shined as a bright light in the darkest of times, demonstrating a magnitude of resilience…a depth of courage that knows no bounds.”

Sandler spoke about her involvement with the Joint Distribution Committee; JDC is the leading global Jewish humanitarian organization on the ground in Israel. “They represent all of us.” Sandler added, “Forty percent of its (JDC) staff and professionals have been called up,” referring to the mandatory military service in Israel.

As the event concluded, students from Strelitz International Academy led the crowd in singing HaTikvah, Israel’s national anthem, The Hope.