On Monday, July 28th, 15,000 members of the metropolitan New York Jewish Community gathered along with many out-of-state visitors, at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza opposite the United Nations. They rallied in support of Israel; with banners and flags waving and chants of “We raise our voices to stand with Israel.”
The solidarity rally, organized as a result of the current crisis in Gaza, was co-sponsored by UJA Federation and the Jewish Community Relations Council of NY (JCRC), the Conference of Presidents, Orthodox Union, New York Board of Rabbis, Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the National Council Young Israel.
The gathering featured a wide array of Israeli and US political and religious personalities and included speeches by: Ambassador Ido Aharoni, consul general of Israel in New York; Ambassador Ron Prosor, Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN; Senator Charles Schumer; Congressman Eliot Engel; Congressman Steve Israel; Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez; Congressman Hakeem Jeffries; Congresswoman Grace Meng, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Boro President Gail Brewer, President Richard Joel of Yeshiva University, Arnold Eisen, Chancellor of Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Aaron Panken, president of Hebrew Union College and Reverend Jacques De Graff of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem. Michael S. Miller, Vice-President and CEO of the JCRC of NY, co-ordinated the rally and introduced the speakers. Alisa Doctoroff, president of UJA Federation represented her organization and Richard B. Stone represented The Conference of Presidents.
In response to President Barack Obama’s relentless pressure on the Israeli government for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire Senator Charles Schumer stated, “We cannot have any ceasefire until Israel destroys Hamas’ weapons and tunnels.” Schumer than shouted, “No ceasefire as long as Hamas’ weaponry is not gone! It’s plain and simple….
Every government has the right to protect its people and Israel is no different.”
Congressman Steve Israel announced that he will be traveling to Israel on Saturday; he said, “Not only do we stand with Israel in New York, we stand with Israel in Israel.” Rep Israel announced a congressional letter directed to the UN warning the international body not to investigate Israel’s operation in Gaza. “If you want to investigate Israel for alleged war crimes, give it up! Investigate Hamas instead,” he said to thunderous applause.
Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University, speaking about his recent family trip to Israel said, we must continue “demanding that our children be allowed to sleep in safety….we must be strong and resolute so we can continue to be a light onto the nations and we must stand with Israel.”
Ambassador Ido Aharoni speaking about the New York community stated, “It’s not a coincidence that the worlds largest display of solidarity with Israel is taking place right here in NYC, I am here to express the profound gratitude on behalf all the Israelis who spent the last 21 days in bomb shelters, thank you NY for your support. We are facing an uncompromising enemy that seeks our destruction and in our view today is a celebration of Israel’s resilience and perseverance.”
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who represents a large Hasidic/Satmar constituency in Williamsburg, echoed Senator Schumer and her Congressional colleagues that, “Israel should not have to sacrifice the safety of its citizens to achieve goal of cease-fire”.
Newly elected Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jefferies, who represents both a large Jewish and Muslim constituency stated, “Brooklyn stands with Israel… Israel has a right to defend itself against aggression. Israel is here to stay and it will remain forever. Israel lives in a very tough neighborhood…. there are certain realities to that. We mourn the loss of civilian life on both sides of the conflict, but when you live in a tough neighborhood Israel should not be made to apologize for its strength, because the only game that people respect in a tough neighborhood is strength.”
New York Comptroller Scott Stringer gave a powerful speech, in which he said, “there are many people around the world rallying and saying death to the Jews. We have missiles coming into Israel every day and some actually defend the actions of Hamas, we have tunnels that we have discovered and people say that is nothing to be concerned about and we must say enough is enough and we must fight back. It is up to us in NYC to make the case for Israel.”
Reverend Jacques De Graff of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem, in a powerful reenactment of the chants from the days of the civil rights movement shouted, “the rockets will not surround us the tunnels will not undermine us…. we shall not be moved”.
Also on Monday, a rally for Israel took place in Chicago, organized by the Jewish United Fund of Chicago; as well as a Jewish leadership conference in Washington DC, organized by The Conference of Presidents.