April 16, 2024
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Westchester Leaders Mark Hostages’ 100 Days of Captivity in Gaza

Westchester Shlicha Shachar Liran-Hanan

On January 16, 2024, Westchester’s Jewish community gathered in solidarity with the hostages and people of Israel, marking 100 days since the massacre on October 7, 2023. The event at Temple Israel Center was also hosted by AJC Westchester/Fairfield, JAFI, UJA-Federation and Westchester Jewish Council.

Harriet Schleifer, chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations opened the event. “We’re here to show our support for those who remain captive by Hamas. We are here to demand the return of bodies of those murdered back to receive proper burial. We’re here to keep this mission laser-focused. We’re here to be relentless advocates, pressing local, state, national and international leaders to help us achieve this mission. For if we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?”

Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah remembered her father, who fled Romania in 1940 to the land we now call Israel. “I wouldn’t be standing here today as a Jewish mother, sister, wife, daughter, and yes, prosecutor in the United States, if it were not for Israel, and my father’s bravery in 1940.

“I have been a prosecutor for 20 years. I have never seen the kind of silence, deliberate, ignoring, denialism that is happening right now in this country about deliberate violence against women, children and innocent civilians. Whatever people’s views of the world, their backgrounds, whatever legitimate questions they can ask about what is going on, 130 people being held hostage don’t deserve silence and inaction. The hostages and their families deserve an outcry from every elected official, every women’s rights and human rights group, every human to demand their release by Hamas, a terrorist organization.”

Westchester County Executive George Latimer

Rocah would ask her father, “Didn’t people know what was happening? Why did no one do anything? I now sadly understand it. My father would always give me the same answer. ‘Of course they knew but no one talked about it.’ I’m here to say we will talk about it. We will keep using our voices as loudly as possible to make sure that the hostages are not forgotten; that their families feel supported. We will tell their stories with facts, truth and excruciating detail when we need to, to silence the people spreading lies and misinformation and people trying to minimize the horrors of what happened on October 7 and is still happening now.”

County Executive George Latimer stated: “What happened on October 7 is not an isolated situation. On multiple occasions, humanity can turn ugly and dark. Anybody who thinks what’s happening militarily is about revenge is wrong. It’s not about revenge, it’s about deterrence. Hamas’ charter states they want to eradicate Jews from Israel. They haven’t renounced that.”

Latimer reflected on his recent trip to Kibbutz Kfar Aza: “It stays with me today even though it’s almost two months. At a press conference in Tel Aviv, family members were speaking out in anguish … that the world was not outraged by what happened. I’ve never seen one bullet hole in my life, and I saw thousands walking through that kibbutz.” Latimer added: “I have people chanting, ‘Ceasefire now, river to the sea.’ Some don’t know what they are saying. I know better. I know what I saw.”

Latimer warned, “If this country does not stand up now, on the shores where it occurred, it will assuredly be standing up against this on our own shores. Hamas isn’t just interested in eradicating Jews from Israel. They want to eradicate things Western democracies hold dear. If Israel could be gone tomorrow, and France, England and Germany the day after that, the United States and Canada would follow suit.”

Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah

Westchester Shlicha Shachar Liran-Hanan said: “It’s been 100 days since October 7. No family in Israel can sleep peacefully at night. 136 families are still waiting for their loved ones still held hostage in Gaza, underground, starving, sick, being tortured, raped murdered. One day we will look back. I hope every one of us could say we did everything we could.”

Liran-Hanan advised: Call your elected officials every day; follow the hostages and missing-families forum; post on social media; show support publicly. Call Israeli friends and family members. Don’t ask how you can help; offer concrete help. Buy Israeli products, invest in small businesses, travel to Israel, and volunteer. “October 7 will continue affecting Israel and Israelis for years to come.”

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