July 17, 2024
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July 17, 2024
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Pro-Israel Billboard Erected in Old Bridge by Community Draws Support

A billboard along Route 9 North in Old Bridge has generated positive reaction in the community.

A grassroots campaign to keep funding a large pro-Israel billboard in Old Bridge has garnered significant community support.

The billboard, located on Route 9 North by the park and ride bus stop for New York commuters, displays the American flag and Israeli flags and proudly proclaims, “We Stand with Israel.”

It was initially funded by local members of the Marlboro Israel group, which hopes to continue renting the space through a GoFundMe campaign.

“It’s a great location,” said Dr. Rimma Chertog, one of three community members who initiated the drive for the billboard. “It is the last (local) bus stop and everyone from Howell, Freehold, Manalapan and Marlboro will go past it.”

Additionally, she said because there is adjacent parking people can stop while riding on the heavily traveled highway and take a photo. Old Bridge is in Middlesex County and borders Marlboro in Monmouth County.

A local pro-Palestinian billboard that accuses Israel of war crimes prompted the campaign to erect a billboard supporting Israel.

“Our sign is just in support of Israel,” said Chertog, pointing out it also recognizes that Israel is America’s only true ally in the Middle East. “Literally theirs is accusing Israel of war crimes when it is Hamas who is using Palestinians as human shields and blaming Israel.”

The idea for the billboard came from Moshe Grant who said, “I woke up one day and thought enough is enough.”

He was particularly upset by two pro-Palestinian billboards in the region, which the trio viewed as antisemitic. They were erected by Voice for Humanity, which bills itself as “a group of tax-paying Americans inspired by the recent atrocities in Gaza Palestine, who stand united for equality, justice and peace for all mankind,” according to its website.

“There was a sign that was depicting Jews as genocidal,” said Grant, who is an Israeli native. “Ours is not targeting anyone. We deliberately did not want to target the other side.”

Grant said he was inspired after seeing a similar pro-Israel sign near the Outerbridge Crossing connecting Staten Island to New Jersey. He said he has received a largely positive reaction to the sign.

“The community has celebrated it online,” he noted. “A lot of people have become positively emotional after seeing it. They were overjoyed. One said, ‘Finally some light in the darkness as I’m traveling to work.’”

However, Grant does worry about vandalism because the billboard is low enough to be targeted. He makes it a point to drive by it daily to check.

However, if it is vandalized, Grant vowed “to get a new banner out there as fast as we can because no one will shut us up.”

Craig Marshall said he became more sensitive to issues involving Israel and antisemitism after the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas because his son is a veteran of the IDF and is now a graduate student at Columbia University, which has been beset with antisemitic incidents and negative publicity.

After college, his son had spent a couple of years working on a kibbutz before joining the paratrooper unit. Marshall said his son is now 75 % through his master’s program and worries the university’s tarnished reputation will hinder his future employment.

“I really wanted to take a stand because I have a personal stake in this,” said Marshall.

Another billboard erected in support of Palestinians, which prompted community members to raise money for a billboard supporting Israel.

The trio said they were surprised at the difficulty they had in finding a billboard company willing to erect the sign and had contacted multiple companies. One with whom they had a signed contract canceled it abruptly without explanation. Grant said there has been “organized resistance” to the pro-Palestinian signage, which may have made some companies hesitant to get involved in the conflict.

The initial cost to erect the billboard at the beginning of the month was $7,000, which covered the first month’s rent and the creation of the sign.

“We raised that in three days,” said Chertog, a native of Moldova. “I posted it everywhere.”

Continued funding costs about $4,700 a cycle and it will stay up as long as funding is available.

To contribute go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-our-billboards-extended-stay

Debra Rubin has had a long career in journalism writing for secular weekly and daily newspapers and Jewish publications. She most recently served as Middlesex/Monmouth bureau chief for the New Jersey Jewish News. She also worked with the media at several nonprofits, including serving as assistant public relations director of HIAS and assistant director of media relations at Yeshiva University.

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