The planners of the Rally for Israel in Fort Lee on Sunday, November 5, enlisted a coalition of local shuls and prepared a straightforward program at the Young Israel of Fort Lee, to raise the Jewish community’s spirits in support of the State of Israel.
What they hadn’t budgeted for, until late in the game, was the presence of opponents of Israel hoping to discourage the Jewish community and muddy the message of the event.
As Young Israel of Fort Lee president Harry Wild shared with the Jewish Link, his shul partnered with the Beit Yosef Sephardic shul, the Chabad of Fort Lee, and the Beth Israel of the Palisades Conservative synagogue to hold a rally for Israel that would start inside the Young Israel and end with singing in the park outside. On Saturday night, he learned that a counter demonstration was being planned and he called the Fort Lee Police Chief Matthew Hintze, whose officers had already learned of the counter protest plans. Chief Hintze assured Wild that the PD had plans to manage the situation.
The Fort Lee Rally for Israel attracted about 500 people and featured three of the congregational rabbis leading the recitation of tehillim and the Chabad rabbi reading the Keil Maleh Rachamim, speeches by Fort Lee Mayor Sokolich and CEO of the Federation of Jewish Camps Jeremy Fingerman, and Wild serving as master of ceremonies. The gathering said tefillot for the IDF, US forces, and the hostages.
When they went outside to sing, the gathering stayed closer to the building and sang the Star Spangled Banner, Hatikvah, and Israeli songs. They were greeted by a crowd that Wild estimated to be roughly 100 pro-Palestinian protestors who’d gathered across the street in the park.
In Wild’s assessment, the counter protestors appeared to be non-residents who were bused in for the event and were clearly well-funded, with high-powered bullhorns, professionally printed signs, and several large Palestinian flags.
Wild stated that “The Fort Lee Police Department were absolutely incredible. They were well prepared and controlled the scene quite skillfully.” He added that, while the counter protesters did fling plastic water bottles at the Jewish community members, hitting one woman on the head, there was otherwise no confrontations and the police department kept both sides apart.
Wild remarked that the event for Israel “was an incredibly successful rally, which accomplished what we set out to do—to show support for Israel and the United States.” And it managed to do so even with a lot of yelling right across the street.
Harry Glazer is the Middlesex County Editor of The Jewish Link. Occasionally, he has the good fortune of covering news in Fort Lee. He can be reached at [email protected]