On Sunday afternoon, June 6, a pro-Israel rally was held at Smith Field in Parsippany, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest (Federation) in partnership with various local synagogues and Amir Hadar. Event organizers Rabbi Inna Serebro-Litvak of Temple Shalom in Succasunna, and Ron Brandt, president of Mt. Freedom Jewish Center in Randolph, led the estimated 350 attendees in song and support for Israel.
The supporters came out to “express their support for Israel in [the face] of the recent events of violence, the barrage of missiles sent to Israel from Gaza by Hamas, which also spiked rising antisemitism in the United States,” according to Rabbi Serebro-Litvak.
In his introductory remarks, Brandt stated, “to speak up is our purpose here today. We cannot remain silent anymore. We have spoken up for every cause but our own. We are a community that is strong when we speak together for Israel and against antisemitism.”
Introducing the first speaker, State Senator Anthony Bucco, Brandt emphasized, “the theme of the day is volunteerism,” acknowledging that “Senator Bucco is a dedicated community representative and volunteer who is there for his constituents.”
Bucco’s message in calling the United States “a melting pot for all walks of life,” was that “bitterness and hate will not be tolerated, not today, not tomorrow, not ever.” He noted that in Israel, the doctors treated both sides without hesitation, giving him an overwhelming sense of pride for Israel and the Jewish people. He stated that he is “here to stand with Israel as Israel has stood with the United States.”
Rabbi Moshe Rudin of Adath Shalom, Parsippany, implored those gathered to open their hearts and minds and stand against bigotry in all forms. He said, “We support all people who stand for co-existence, dialogue and peace.”
Words of support from U.S. Congressman Tom Malinowski, who could not be in attendance, were shared.
Federation’s Rebecca A. Gold emphasized that MetroWest stands with Israel. She said, “We stand for peace…4,400 rockets were fired from Hamas using Palestinians as human shields causing death, destruction and terror. We stand against antisemitism and support co-existence. We will show the world Israel has a right to defend herself and will always stay strong.”
Leading cheers of “Am Yisrael Chai,” Gold noted, “There is a plane with 25 Jewish communal leaders of all denominations on a solidarity mission to Israel right now. Federation is one organization that belongs to every Jew working together for kol Yisrael and tikkun olam.”
Rabbi Shalom Lubin of Congregation Shaya Ahavat Torah, Succasunna, participated with his sons Dovid and Chaim, who were helping to distribute bottled water to the attendees who were sitting on the open field in 90 degree heat.
Rabbi Lubin began by saying, “We are one, here together in support of Israel and against hate.”
He pointed out the kind of hate he sees while walking along the highway on his way to services when he’s been spat at and cursed.
“We are here together to fight antisemitism,” he continued. Paraphrasing the words of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, zt”l, Rabbi Lubin said, “We were hated because of our religion, then we were hated because of our race, and now we are hated because of our land.” “The reasons changed,” Rabbi Lubin stated, “Hate stayed.”
Speaking of his daughter in Israel, Rabbi Lubin said he had spoken with her before Shavuot and told her he wanted her to be safe, but she had to do what she had to do. Afterwards, he spoke with her, and she said, “Of course I went to the Kotel for Shavuot,” adding, “We do not back down.”
Proudly and powerfully, Rabbi Lubin gave three key points. “One, Israel and our connection goes back 4,000 years to Abraham and Sarah…; two, let us not get swept up with rhetoric today; there should not be any place that Jews cannot live; and three, we must remember that Israel has a right to protect itself, not just defend itself. … We have to do whatever we can to protect ourselves.”
The rabbi added that when someone asked the Rebbe, “What will be?” the Rebbe, zt”l, said that the question should be, “What can I do?” Rabbi Lubin concluded, “That’s why we’re here,” as he implored everyone to commit to going to Israel when the world opens up again. He said, “Israel needs us now. … When we do our part, God will do his part. The Jewish people will finally be home in peace and tranquility.”
Members of the interfaith council were also on hand. Reverend Herman Scott of Calvary Baptist Church in Morristown spoke of today’s virus, deadlier than COVID, as hatred and indifference. Calling for a unified front to defeat this virus, he urged all to stand united. Rev. Scott received a round of applause for saying, in the words of Desmond Tutu, “My humanity is bound up in yours….”
Pastor Vernon Outlaw of Abundant Life Church in Whippany offered support of Israel by stating, “We have a love relationship that extends to the Jewish people. … As Christians, we count ourselves as friends and are committed to paying the price and standing with the Jewish people and Israel.”
Rabbi Menashe East, spiritual leader of Mt. Freedom Jewish Center, stated, “We should be dancing, but we need to be here to stand in unison against antisemitism and anti-Zionism.” He insisted that “getting back to the synagogue will make the loudest message.”
Deputy Director of the Board of County Commissioners, Debra Smith, said she is a Jewish American who “cannot remain silent with mounting hate for Jews around the world. … As Israel struggles for survival, we need to call out professors calling Zionists Nazis, call out hate campaigns when they mask as intellectual banter and call out the media for their biased coverage.”
Mid-program, the organizers thanked Parsippany-Troy Hills Police Captain Wieners and the strong showing of police officers. They mentioned among the dignitaries in attendance the Morris County prosecutor, many elected officials, candidates for elected office and heads of schools. Jeffrey R. Grayzel, mayor of Morris Township and a candidate for higher office, identified as a Jewish elected official. Mayor Grayzel stated that “antisemitism and hatred for Israel are anti-partisan, and as Jews and non-Jews, we need to fight for the same ecumenical values.”
Gary Martin, a candidate for political office in Parsippany, stated he came out “to support Israel, peace and freedom, which our country is founded on.”
Lester Block of Parsippany said he “felt a strong need to be present at the rally as a Jew,” adding, “Every Jew should be here.” He noted that in the last year or so, he has begun to feel “not 100% safe in America” and has been “seeing it become more like Nazi Germany by the day.”
Jay Monka of Hackettstown and his mother-in-law Luba Levenstein were there “in support of Israel and the Jewish community.” Monka emphatically declared that he is “not afraid to voice [his] opinion in fear of repercussions from those who don’t like us.” “Not in America,” he added, “We should never be afraid.”