June 14, 2024
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June 14, 2024
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West Orange ‘Adopts’ Hostage Evyatar David

Evyatar David

“On October 7th, 23-year-old Evyatar David was shockingly taken hostage while enjoying the Nova Music Festival. Hailing from Kfar Saba, Evyatar’s passion for music, adventurous spirit and warm personality have endeared him to all who know him. Evyatar aspires to pursue a career in music education or production. However, Evyatar’s vibrant life was tragically interrupted by his harrowing kidnapping, leaving his friends and family heartbroken and yearning for his safe return.”—www.bringevyatarhome.com

While fear and desperation have become their daily reality, Evyatar David’s family has another reason to be afraid: The longer Evyatar is held in captivity the more it increases the probability of his being forgotten by the world.

A new initiative, Adopt-a-Hostage, was created to combat the growing indifference to the plight of all the hostages. The brainchild of the MirYam Institute in Israel, its goal is to “enable communities around the world to directly partner with, support and sponsor individual hostage families whose loved ones remain in Hamas captivity.”

The West Orange Jewish community has taken up the call and adopted Evyatar and his family: mother and father Galia and Avishai, brother Ilay and sister Yaela. Community partners to date include Cong. AABJ&D, Cong. Ohr Torah, B’nai Shalom, Chabad of West Orange, Zichron Dovid, Shabbat House, Beth Israel, West Orange Fooderie and Super Duper Bagels.

A board member of the MirYam Institute, West Orange resident Dov Lando met the David family when he went on an institute mission in January. While there, he developed a strong connection with Ilay.

“Ilay described Evyatar as a sweet guy with a lot of friends and family. He is very musical and loves all music, which was why he was at Nova festival. There is footage of Hamas taking him and images of him in captivity early on. Because they had some proof of life the Davids have reason to believe he’s alive. He’s a healthy young man,” said Lando.

After he came home, Lando, a member of AABJ&D and Ohr Torah, enlisted a small team of community members to lead the initiative. The group included Greg Zuckerman, who is also a member of AABJ&D. The two began by reaching out to the rabbinic and lay leadership at the two shuls, both of which agreed to participate. They then reached out to the other shuls and institutions in town.

“Our single most important goal is to bring Evyatar home; everything is geared to that,” said Lando. “One of the ways we can help is to keep him in the public consciousness and remind people who he is in coordination with his family. We need to remind the world there are people still being held by Hamas under horrific conditions. We need to amplify the family’s voices, provide them with moral support and bring a focus on Evyatar as an individual person.”

Starting from ground zero, the committee created and began to implement the action plan, which continues to evolve, and that has focused on social media platforms, community activism and synagogue action. A major effort was the creation of a website by volunteer Devory Heinreich. BringEvyatarHome.com is a space where visitors learn about Evyatar—the son, brother and musician—and not as just another statistic.

BringEvyatarHome also includes family interviews, stories about Evyatar in the news, and specific action-oriented ways the West Orange community can help, by using personal social media platforms to share all content and adding the hashtag #bringevyatarhome on every post. It also contains links to the community’s new Facebook page, Bring Evyatar Home, also created and managed by Heinreich, and to the David family’s Instagram feed, bring_evyatar_home. Visitors to the website can send a personal message to the David family.

Said Zuckerman: “It is incumbent on us to do what we can to keep Evyatar’s story fresh and foremost in our minds and the minds of those who matter—public officials and others. It’s increasingly a challenge. He is a talented musician and loving son who never missed an opportunity to give his mom a hug. Great heart. Big friend. We want to make sure the Davids know we are thinking about Evyatar and their family. The public might forget, but we aren’t going to.”

It took committee member Nili Yolin a few weeks to fully understand the intimacy of the initiative. “I got to fully know this hostage. Suddenly, we have a human being. Suddenly, I’m listening for a person’s name. We’re doing this for Evyatar so, God willing, one day, he will know there were people praying just for him. He’ll know there was a community making his life and his family our priority.”

To date, participating shuls have been asked to use their own communications platforms to share information about Evyatar, host speakers, reach out to public figures and influencers, hang posters in their buildings, include links to the website, Instagram and Facebook feeds in email communications to their congregations, mention Evyatar in weekly announcements made in shul, and include Evyatar when reciting Tehillim and mi shebeirach. A lawn sign campaign is being coordinated by Michal and Aaron Strauss; the signs will soon be available at a nominal donation, and any money raised will go directly to the David family. Future action being considered is hosting a family member in West Orange or arranging a Zoom with the entire community.

There has already been media attention. At its Lag B’Omer event, the MetroWest Israel Action Committee unveiled a 300-pound, almost 10-foot tall “Milk Carton” on the lawn of B’nai Shalom that features a picture of Evyatar and other hostages, and also presented a video with a heartfelt message from Ilay, which was covered by Pix 11. The West Orange community turned its focus on Evyatar at the May 13 communal Yom HaZikaron Commemoration and Yom Ha’Atzmaut chagiga. The committee shares all updates with Ilay and Galia via WhatsApp.

“The family is fighting; they are not giving up,” said Lando. Galia and Ilay have come to the U.S. with the MirYam Institute to keep their son in the public consciousness; Ilay has shared Evyatar’s story abroad and in Israeli media. Friends gather regularly and play music in his honor and to keep him in their thoughts. In April, Ilay and close to 100 runners ran in the portion of the Tel Aviv Night Run dedicated to Evyatar wearing white shirts emblazoned with his image and text reading, “Until Evyatar is home.”

“I know you hate running,” said Ilay, speaking of his brother, “but this is to raise awareness; we’re doing everything we can to tell your story and bring you home.”

Ilay, in conversations with Lando and committee members, shared how much the West Orange community’s efforts mean to his family. “Our family truly appreciates the efforts by the West Orange community to support us during this painful time, and to help us keep the focus on Evyatar until he is returned home safely,” he said.

“We must make sure Evyatar remains foremost in our minds and the minds of those who matter,” stated Lando. “We owe it to them to do everything we can.”

Dov Lando is available to share the West Orange action plan and experience with members of other communities thinking about adopting a hostage and can be reached at [email protected]. For general information about the initiative, visit miryaminstitute.org/adopt-a-hostage.

Sherry S. Kirschenbaum is a copy editor at The Jewish Link. She formerly was a communications specialist at a number of local and national Jewish organizations.

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