On Tuesday I was one of 300,000 people who descended on our nation’s capital to rally for the release of 240 hostages being held by Hamas. We stood together across faith, across denomination, across race and sexuality as we sang out and prayed for an end to antisemitism. We applauded the speakers who supported Israel’s right to defend itself against terror. We were moved by those who lifted up the humanity of both Palestinians and Israelis. Our heart was pulled as we heard from the parents of kidnapped children. KI was there in full, a large group of us representing our congregation on a day that mattered to us, mattered to Israelis watching from afar and – absolutely – to those who are trying to justify their apathy and/or disdain for our people.
Amid an altogether harrowing five weeks for the Jewish people, the rally in Washington was precisely what the soul needed. It was a show of unity in the face of division. It was a moment of solidarity in the face of infighting. It was a reminder that we are not in this alone, that as isolated as we might feel at work or school or online, we are part of a proud and steadfast Jewish community.
At the rally there were signs and flags for miles. Israeli flags, American flags, Zionist flags, LGBTQ+ flags. There were signs of hope, of love, of resolve, even of levity (“More Hummus, Less Hamas”). There were men and women, young and old, those in black hats, those in tie-dye, democrats and republicans, those who had come from down the street and those who had flown in from Arizona, Minnesota, Michigan, Florida, California and Texas. I saw teens. I saw infants. I saw the elderly, the disabled, the quiet and the outspoken.
The one sign that perhaps spoke loudest to me was the one that said: “Never Again Is Now.” In a sea of signs, this one grabbed me. We are living in a time of shocking prejudice. The ADL reports that anti-Semitic incidents are up 400% since October 7. An age-old hatred for our people has been uncovered. In too many instances, would-be allies have either remained totally silent or turned on us outright. We must call out hate, be proud of how we are and continue to urge Israel to a place of the highest Jewish ideals.
Finally, it cannot be lost on us either that all of this happened not only in our nation’s capital, but in the heart of the capital, with the Washington Monument behind us and the Capitol Building just in front of us. Not a mile away was the White House and the Jefferson Memorial. We stood where so many American dignitaries and icons have also stood, those who – in their own time – used their voice and their vote for an America of greater justice and compassion. It is a site where people have urged peace across so many wars. It is a site where people have demanded equality across so many generations. It is where we have come to remember, as we did amid the AIDS epidemic, or to march for awareness, as we did amid the soaring death tolls in Darfur. In 1987, I joined with my family at that very site to demand both the protection and release of Soviet Jewry. Yesterday, I was with my son, raising up the cause of our time, and every time, an Israel that can and will defend itself against hate and terror in the name of its very survival. We American Jews have a voice. We must use it for the good.
May Israel know peace and God willing soon. May innocent lives be spared. May we remain united as a Jewish family, now and always. Amen.