Standing room only crowd attends Stand Strong for Israel solidarity gathering

by | Aug 15, 2014 | Featured

The gathering was moved to the gym due to the large crowd.

The gathering was moved to the gym due to the large crowd.

by Laine Mednick Rutherford

With only three days notice, more than 550 people in Tidewater rearranged their calendars, braved stormy weather, and waited in long lines for security checks, all to show their dedicated and determined support for Israel.

Stand Strong for Israel, a gathering planned by leaders of the Tidewater Jewish community and supported by synagogues and Jewish agencies, was held in the gym of the Simon Family JCC on the evening of Thursday, July 24.

“This event is a way that the Jewish community and our friends in the area can show solidarity with the millions of people in Israel currently affected by the terrorist campaign being waged against them,” said Miles Leon, president of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

As Leon looked out at the hundreds of supporters in the standing room only gym, he said in his welcoming remarks, “It is a statement to the strength of our community, and the power of a people, that so many of us—of all faiths and backgrounds—are here tonight.”

The evening included prayers and songs, led by the community’s congregational rabbis and cantors who could attend. The Stand Strong for Israel committee— David and Bonnie Brand, Barbara Dudley, Brad Lerner, Shikma Rubin and UJFT’s Community Relations Council director Robin Mancoll—worked tirelessly to plan the event, beginning just two days before notifications went out to the public.

Guest speakers for the evening included area residents who had traveled recently to Israel, some of whom had to seek shelter as sirens warning of incoming missiles blared, a former Major in the Israel Defense Forces, the director of a program for the disabled in Israel, and an international political and military analyst.

A poignant moment of the evening came as Camp JCC’s Israeli counselors Thai Zahavy and Lior Goldrath, both 17, shared their appreciation for the support the community showed them and their nation, during this crisis, and attested to the fortitude of the Israeli people. Members of the audience were brought to tears as Thai, barely holding back tears herself, announced that earlier in the day a funeral was held for one of her good friends from home—a young IDF soldier who had been killed in the war.

Before concluding the evening’s program, UJFT board member and community leader Jay Klebanoff thanked the Stand Strong for Israel committee, clergy and guest speakers, politicians and leaders of other faith who attended, and the hundreds who turned out to support Israel. Klebanoff also suggested ways the community could continue to help, such as contributing to Tidewater’s Emergency Stop the Sirens humanitarian relief fund, sending thank you notes to elected officials who passed funding legislation for the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, writing letters to the editor, and using social media in a positive way to advocate for Israel.

“In closing,” said Klebanoff, “I’d like to remind you to continue to pray for peace, for healing, for lives lost during this war, and for this crisis to end. Continue to Stand Strong for Israel. You’re not alone—as you can see here tonight—and it’s up to all of us to show Israelis that they’re not alone, either.

For updates and information about the crisis in Israel, actions you can take to make a difference locally and in Israel, and links for more photos and statements of support from elected official and faith leaders, visit