Last Tuesday evening, we gathered together to show our solidarity with Israel. Hundreds and hundreds of people showed up to deliver the clear message that we as a community support the people of Israel in this time of need. To repeat some of what I said that evening:
We stand in solidarity: with a nation that suffers through thousands of rocket attack.
We stand in solidarity: with those who are called to sacrifice their lives in defense of others.
We stand in solidarity: against Hamas, the military leadership of the Palestinians in Gaza, and in solidarity with Palestinian civilians whose long-standing conditions of suffering we recognize with distress.
The gathering also featured a report by Heschel Raskas, who is Co-Chairing the allocations process for Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel Emergency Campaign. Last week, the goal of the national fund was to raise “at least $30 Million.” That figure is likely to grow. At the time I am writing this, I am proud that our community has done its part to raise over $400,000 to support trauma relief in the area, every dollar of which is directly allocated to relief efforts.
Going forward we will be convening a range of meetings to highlight Israel and give voice to the diversity of views that appear within our community. This week, the Jewish Light, JCC and JCRC will be sponsoring a “Can We Talk” event on how the media is covering the situation in Israel. Additionally, we have already scheduled special events for young professionals and teens. More will be announced as they are planned.
Our Solidarity Gathering last Tuesday was convened by Federation and coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council, directed by Batya Abramson-Goldstein. Batya’s usual thoughtfulness, thoroughness, and sensitivity to our community was evident to all of us in the choice of speakers, many of whom were eager to participate not only because of their support for Israel but because of the relationship that she and the JCRC have fostered over many years. I want to thank her as well as all who participated in the program: The Honorable Roey Gilad, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest; Rabbi Susan Talve, Central Reform Congregation; Lila Greenberg and Roey Vardi, Student to Student Program; Reverend C. Jessel Strong, President, Clergy Coalition of Metropolitan St. Louis; Cantor Seth Warner, Shaare Emeth Congregation; Rabbi Hyim Shafner, Bais Abraham Congregation; Donn Rubin, Chair of the Israel Committee, JCRC; and Patty Croughan, Board Chair, Jewish Federation of St. Louis.
I want to also thank Federation staff members Amy Pakett, Erin Wolfman and Rachel Miller, along with JCRC staff member Roxann Holloway, and JCC staff member Randi Poscover along with JCC CEO Lynn Wittles, whose combined efforts were essential to pulling off such a large event. Finally, I want to thank Karen Aroesty, Regional Director of the ADL, St. Louis, Rob Granick, Federation COO, and Randy Grass, head of security for our Kopolow building, for coordinating local security with support from our county police. The efforts of this crew collectively ensured a seamless, safe and secure event for all.
There was of course one significant problem—because of the large turnout we did not have the capacity to accommodate everyone who wished to attend. The day before the event we had had only 80 people RSVP, and the week before our community briefing attracted about 200 people. As we began to sense there would be more people attending, we arranged for an overflow space. The JCC was a terrific partner, accommodating late requests for the additional space as best they could. Unfortunately, we were unable to use the gym that night because of a prior gymnastics competition being held there. In the end, our final turnout was close to 800 with standing room, etc., far exceeding expectations. It is indeed truly unfortunate we had to turn away anyone for an event that was meant to bring the community together.
This is a very challenging time for the State of Israel and for Jews everywhere. Caring for vulnerable Jews domestically and overseas is a priority of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. As a community, we have always risen to help people in need, and we must continue to do so during this exceedingly difficult time. Federation remains here to help our community support the people of Israel. The needs that they have remain and your commitment to our community through our Annual Campaign is essential for Federation to ensure that our community remains strong for everyone in St. Louis, in Israel, and around the world.
To download the materials from the Solidarity Gathering last week or to make a contribution to our Israel Emergency Campaign, go to JFedSTL.org/IsraelEmergency.