Record turnout for national Israel solidarity rally

  American Jews and allies ‘March for Israel’ in D.C.    

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(Photo credit: Ralph Alswang, Jewish Federations of North America)

It was the largest single gathering of U.S. Jews in history, with 290,000 attendees from across the nation traveling to Washington, D.C. to stand in solidarity with Israel.  

Jews of all ages, denominations, orientations, and backgrounds--plus allies from other religious and ethnic communities--came together to support Israel, demand the release of the 240 hostages kidnapped by Hamas, and to combat antisemitism.  

Held at the National Mall facing the U.S. Capitol, the March for Israel was organized by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.  

"It's an historic day, an historic moment," said David Golder, Chair of JUF's Board. "After the horrifying events of October 7, we are coming together as a community. The response is overwhelming, positive, and energized." 

Two thousand Chicagoans made the trip by plane, bus, and train, with groups' travel subsidized by JUF.   

"In Chicago, the community is stepping up-financially, in person, online, and with their elected officials," Golder said. "All things that the community can do are being done, including bringing our message to Washington." 

Speakers included bipartisan leaders and member of Congress, who noted that standing up for Israel, and against antisemitism, were rare issues agreed upon by both parties. Presenters included House Speaker Mike Johnson, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Members of the Bi-Partisan Task Force Combatting Anti-Semitism took turns reading a prayer for the hostages.  

Israeli President Isaac Herzog broadcasted his message from the Western Wall: "Eighty years ago, Jews came out of Auschwitz and vowed: 'Never again.' Forty days ago, a terrorist army invaded the sovereign state of Israel and butchered hundreds of Israelis, in the largest massacre since the Holocaust. Let us cry out together: 'Never again' is now!" 

Michael Herzog, Israel's U.S. Ambassador, thanked America's people and government for their support, saying, "You give us strength."  

Relatives of hostages shared their heartbreaking stories. Orna Neurta and Rachel Goldberg spoke of their sons, while Alana Zeitchik pled for the release of six of her cousins.  

Many attendees held posters depicting Goldberg's son, Hersh; seeing these at the rally, said Hersh's cousin, Chicagoan Emily Reisler, was "surreal." She added, "He was just my little cousin, but now he's a face of a larger issue. The fight doesn't stop until they come home."  

"This government stands against Jew-hatred," said Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department's Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism. "Today in America, we give antisemitism no sanction, no foothold, no tolerance. Not on campus, not in our neighborhoods, not in the streets, not in our government, nowhere-not now, not ever." 

Linda Schottenstein Fisher, JUF Women's Board President, agreed. "The March gave all of us the opportunity to express the sadness we feel for the horror of October 7, reaffirm our strength against antisemitism, and stand for Israel and the safe return of the hostages. Never have I ever been more proud of being Jewish." 

The war's reverberations on college campuses were a major focus, with a pre-rally event dedicated to the issue featuring representatives from Hillel and youth groups, and the college students featured among the rally's speakers. 

Former refusenik and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky addressed the students directly, calling their campuses "another front in this war," and offering encouragement: 

"Look at these tens of thousands of students… You are not frightened. You are not silenced. Together, we'll win." 

"For most Jewish Millennials and Gen-Zers, this is the first major Israeli conflict during our adult lives," said Henry Sholk, Young Leadership Division Board President. "Many in our generation have shown apathy towards antisemitism, or directed hate towards Israel. I am in D.C. today, as we show resilience, and say that hate has no place anywhere. I hope today's rally will equal the impact of the one in 1987 for Soviet Jewry." 

"After five and a half weeks of darkness and sadness, being in D.C.--surrounded by hundreds of thousands of supporters for Israel--brought a spark of light, and feeling of some of the weight being lifted," said JUF Board Member Jennifer Leemis "I felt strength coming together with Jews and non-Jewish allies, people young and old, across the religious and political spectrums.  

"We came together to show that this will not bring us down--instead, we will rise up." 

Watch the rally at marchforisrael.org .  


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