April 15, 2024
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April 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

JFNNJ Holds Rally for Kidnapped Boys At Noam

Paramus—The Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey (JFNNJ) held a Solidarity Rally to support bringing our boys home, in good shape, as soon as possible. The rally in Paramus was held in Yeshivat Noam’s auditorium and was filled beyond capacity with crowds of people standing along all three walls that face the stage. It followed the ceremony of installing the newly elected officers of the Federation, an event that had been planned weeks before. The rally was announced on Tuesday, in response to pent-up worries of the area’s Jewish community.

The program was introduced by Steve Rogers and Sari Gross, a couple quite active in the Federation’s work. The notable speakers were: Dr. Zvi Marans, President of the JFNNJ; Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood; Andrew Gross, Political Advisor to the Deputy Consul General of Israel; Dr. Leonard Cole, international terrorism expert and member of the NJ Israel Commission, among other offices; Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky of Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck; and James M. Shames, CEO of the JFNNJ. Perhaps the most moving talk was delivered by Yehoshua Szafranski, a student at Yeshiva University High School for Boys (Marsha Stern Talmudic Academy), who had studied with and befriended two of the boys in the six-week program he attended with them at Makor ChaimYeshiva.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who was scheduled to speak, was unable to attend due to State Senate business in Trenton. Letters of support from several of the area’s Congressional representatives were read. These included Rep. Bill Pascrell (9th CD), Scott Garrett (5th CD), and Senators Corey Booker and Robert Menendez.

Dr. Zvi Marans said our community has gathered many times in support of Israel and the Jewish people, sometimes to celebrate, sometimes to demand action. We were successful in freeing Soviet Jewry and having Gilad Shalit returned in good health. We can do the same for Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali. We must demonstrate to the public, to the media, and to national officials that this crisis is high on our agenda. What is so outrageous is the randomness and brutality of the kidnapping. We should all pray for their safe and speedy return. The Hebrew word for “to pray” is lehitpalel, it is reflexive and should lead us to introspection and a higher level of compassion. Praying b’tzibur, in congregation, makes our prayers stronger. Our community is gathered in the hope that all three boys come back to their homes and families

Rabbi Goldin quoted a phrase that admonishes us to pray and wait to see what happens the next morning. Quoting Rabbi Soloveichick, he pointed out that the Hebrew word for morning is boker, which can also refer to clarity of vision. We must insist that the world understand clearly the moral implications of what has happened. While the Israeli military makes every attempt to protect civilians during its operations, Hamas specifically targets Israeli civilians, including women and children, in the peace they should be able to expect in their daily lives. We must recognize that the kidnappers are terrorists, who can have no justification for their heinous act. The government of the United States must take action to help get the boys returned. The world must achieve clarity on this issue in order for the boys to come home safely.

Andrew Gross said that since the kidnapping, Israel is not functioning as usual. Israelis are pre-occupied with worry for these boys and for their own children who might be suddenly taken from us while walking home from school. While Israel teaches its children to respect others, the Palestinians teach their children to hate. The terrorists did not attack these boys randomly, but chose them to generate the greatest terror possible. Their act proves that the Palestinians do not just struggle to stop settlement and regain land, but to destroy Israel.

Yehoshua Szafranski, the student, spoke of the Israeli boys’ friendship and devotion to study. They want nothing more than to live normal lives. See his speech in this issue of JLBC.

Dr. Leonard Cole, past president of the JFNNJ and of JCPA, thanked all those who came in support of Israel and the boys. He said that while the Federation community has gathered many times, it is sad to come together with old friends to address this crisis. He enumerated feelings that welled up inside him in response to what has happened.

First, he was outraged that the three innocent students were snatched from their families and from their lives on their way home from school. On top of that, Palestinian children are celebrating the evil deed joyfully in the streets. And the Palestinian Authority’s Executive Committees first response was to label Israel’s claims of kidnapping as “alleged” and a “racist reaction.”

Then he felt pride in Israel and its people for showing goodwill in so many ways. This November, the granddaughter of Ismail Haniya, Prime Minister of Gaza, was brought from Gaza and treated in an Israeli hospital. Haniya had called for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish homeland. Amina Abbas, wife of the President of the PA, is recovering from recent leg surgery conducted in a Tel-Aviv hospital. Dr. Cole could not imagine the Palestinians behaving like the Israelis have, if the situation were reversed.

Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky echoed Yehuda Halevy, who famously said, “My heart is in the East, but I am in the West.” The rabbi projected Psalm 142 on a large screen so everyone could read it together. It contains the supplications “With my voice I cry unto the Lord…I pour out my grief…on the way whereon I desired to walk they …laid a snare for me…deliver me from my pursuers.”

He then quoted a Talmudic passage that says that there are as many letters in the Torah as there are Jews, and that if even one letter is missing, the Torah is pasul, rendered incomplete and unusable. He said that we are now missing three of our children, and so, the nation of Israel is incomplete. We must remember them and think of what they are facing and their families’ deep concerns. Rabbi Pitkowsky finished by leading the assembled in chanting a Shlomo Carlebach tune for Psalm 121.

Jason Shames of JFNNJ was the last speaker, delivering a short statement which ended with the hope “that my son can walk the land of Israel freely.”

The program notes made the following suggestions for how those concerned can show their support:

1) Like and share the Bring Back Our Boys Facebook page and join over 91,000 others.

2) Sign the letter of unity at www.bringbackourboys.net to the families of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali.

3) Tweet #BringBackOurBoys and #EyalGiladNaftali on twitter to show solidarity with the people of Israel.

4) Support JFNNJ which funds the Jewish Agency for Israel, which is helping the families of the boys.

5) Pray and recite Tehillim (Psalms) for the missing boys: Eyal ben Iris Teshurah, Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim, and Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah.

6) Light an extra candle on Shabbos and have in mind the names of these students.

By Stephen Tencer

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