June 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Jewish Federation Mission Rabbis Witness ‘Resolve to Move Forward’ in Israel

The Jewish Federation continues to support and express solidarity with Israel and Israelis, via rolling mission visits from various digitary groups. One after the other, for weeks and from all over the country, diverse groups of rabbis and lay leadership have traveled to Israel and back in successive three- to four-day excursions. Even as the borders of Israel and travel have been tightly restricted, the mission trips have streamed in to both express moral support and provide much needed financial fortification to the country and its defenses.

“The Iron Dome and David’s Sling interceptor and defense systems are expensive,” an American-born Tzahal officer said to Rabbi Jeremy Donath of Congregation Darchei Noam of Fair Lawn, New Jersey. Rabbi Donath reported that their group met with Israelis from several towns, as well as an audience with numerous Israeli officials. He related his impressions to The Jewish Link. “Israel needs our resources. They are overwhelmed post-COVID, and their mental health needs are great.” He continued, “The Jewish Link provides an important moral compass to combat the vocal vitriol of social media against Jews and Israel, as a partner in educating neighbors and colleagues in changing the narrative. As social media has become the ‘court of public opinion,’ Israel has been demonized. We must use any and every voice we have. We can’t allow the narrative of social media to be the only narrative.”

Rabbi Donath was accompanied by Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot of Netivot Shalom of Teaneck representing the RCBC as part a diverse group of rabbis: four from the New Jersey Board of Rabbis, including its past president, Rabbi David Fine of Temple Israel in Ridgewood, Rabbi Randall Mark of Shomrei Torah of Wayne, Rabbi Rachel Salston of the Fair Lawn Jewish Center, Rabbi Rachel Steiner of Barnert Temple of Franklin Lakes; as well as Bergen County lay leaders Dana Adler, Martin and Jeanette Heistein, Jayne Petak and Simone Wilker. Also traveling with the group was Jason Shames, CEO and Executive Vice President of Jewish Federation of Northern NJ.

Rabbi Donath said he was surprised by the astonishment some of the Israeli citizens expressed at how much Americans care about their welfare and predicament. “We are saying Tehillim and davening for you in our prayer services and throughout the day,” he told them. As a diverse group of rabbis and lay leaders, they felt the importance of imparting the concept that we are all “one family”—across the globe and across the spectrum of religious practice and observance.

He also expressed the observation that the problems Israel faces are bigger than the war itself and the threat and damage of rocket attacks. His group visited the Israel Trauma Coalition in Sderot, and with citizens residing in Akko—where the biggest problems were not rockets, but in-fighting in the streets and civil unrest. The world-famous restaurant Uri Buri (and its boutique hotel) that were torched are listed as #23 in the top 25 restaurants in the world on “Trip Advisor.” Rabbi Donath was flabbergasted speaking with the owner Uri Jeremias, who appeared poised when he said, “We are determined to rebuild, and not allow the radicals of the world to control the dialogue. The mixed culture of the residents of Akko have pride in their co-existence, and are resolved to move forward.”

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