Hundreds turn out for Israel

Hundreds turn out for Israel

TENAFLY – Hezbollah’s attacks on Nahariya, Israel, are not just attacks against Israel but against klal Yisrael — all Jews, said Benjamin Krasna, Israel’s deputy consul general in New York, at Sunday’s rally for Israel at the JCC on the Palisades.

"We will not stand by idly," Krasna said, when there are "those who would destroy us."

More than 700 people came to UJA of Northern New Jersey’s solidarity gathering called "On the Ground in Nahariya." The standing-room-only event that overflowed into the JCC’s halls, featured two U.S. senators and other officials who voiced their support for Israel’s war against Hezbollah. Organizers screened images of Israel’s northern border towns, which have been frequent targets for Hezbollah’s attacks — particularly Nahariya, UJA-NNJ’s sister city.

Sens. Bob Menendez, left, and Frank Lautenberg shake hands with Sidney Schonfeld of Tenafly. PHOTO&#8’00;by alan grossman

At the rally was Mara Gruskin of Teaneck, whose 19-year-old son David left his summer program in Nahariya last week to continue his studies in Jerusalem. She and her daughter Amy said they were concerned for David but felt that he was now safe in Jerusalem. "He’s as safe in Israel as the Israelis are," his mother said. "It’s fortunate he was able to get out of Nahariya. I feel bad for the residents spending ‘4/7 in the bunkers."

"Thank you for being here on behalf of our sister country, Israel," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). "Israel does America a favor when it fights terrorism."

The United States provided a model for Israel after Sept. 11, he said, when it went after Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida in Afghanistan. Hezbollah’s cross-border attack and capture of Israeli soldiers cannot go unanswered, he added. "When Hezbollah hides among civilians, nobody can say we cannot go after them. We have to do it."

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) agreed with his colleague. "Tonight we need to reiterate to the world that Israel did not start this conflict," he said. "Israel has a right — as does any sovereign country — to defend itself, its people, and its sovereignty."

Deputy Consul Benjamin Krasna tells Sunday’s rally that the attacks against Israel are attacks against all Jews. photo by josh lipowsky

"What would you want your government to do," he asked the crowd, "if rockets were raining in on New Jersey, New Hampshire, and New Mexico? You would ask your country — and expect your country — to protect you."

The crowd cheered Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-37th Dist.) when he said, "It is our responsibility — the elected officials who are not Jewish — to articulate the importance of the State of Israel, and that is what I’ve been trying to do." He received a standing ovation when he wished a fervent "yasher koach," which he later explained was meant for the crowd itself, people of Israel, "the Israeli soldiers fighting for their freedom, and for us, too, the non-Jews rallying to strengthen the fight against terrorism."

Johnson had visited Israel on a UJA-NNJ mission in March ‘005.

While speakers voiced their support for the entire State of Israel, the rally also focused on the northern city of Nahariya, the sister city of UJA-NNJ. Nahariya, with a population of 56,000, is five miles from the Lebanese border and has been a frequent target of Katyusha rockets from Lebanon. The federation showed footage of ambulances and the wounded in Nahariya and of the Western Galilee Hospital, built with an underground wing for just this eventuality. Built in ‘000, the hospital has not used its underground facilities until now.

The Jewish Standard’s managing editor, Jacob Berkman, was in Nahariya on Sunday with representatives of UJA-NNJ. See his report beginning on page ‘8.

Dennis McNerny, Bergen County executive, who visited Nahariya in February with the federation’s men’s mission, told the crowd that "Israel has the right to defend herself and the need to defend herself." He said that Hezbollah’s rocket attacks are not a show of force but a show of cowardice.

A number of dignitaries in the audience were recognized from the pulpit.

Among them was Paul Arohnson, a Democrat running for Congress from the fifth district. "We need to come together and raise our voices," said Aronsohn after the rally. "My responsibility is to raise my voice in support of Israel and against terror."

Also recognized were state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate; Matthew Barnes, director of district outreach for Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5th Dist.); Michael Epstein, legislative assistant to Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9th Dist.); Freeholder David Ganz; Robert Yudin, the Republican candidate for Bergen County freeholder; Sgts. Dave Donow and Barry Leventhal, who were part of a ‘004 Bergen County police delegation that went to Nahariya to learn anti-terrorism techniques (Leventhal is with the Office of Emergency Management).

The federation has opened a mailbox for relief to Nahariya. Donations can be sent to "Israel Crisis Relief" C/O UJA NNJ 111 Kinderkamack Road, River Edge, NJ 07661. Participants could also sign a banner at the JCC that would be sent to the city as a sign of solidarity.

"This is just all unfolding so quickly. Who knows what the next day will bring?" said Susan Penn, chair of UJA-NNJ’s Jewish Community Relations Council. Events like the one on Sunday, with two U.S. senators and hundreds of people voicing their support are very important because it is a very visible sign of support, she said. "It’s very important we stay in touch with our congressmen and stand strong for Israel."

Rabbi Neal Borovitz of Temple Sholom in River Edge , president of the North Jersey Board of Rabbis, and Rabbi Shalom Baum of Cong. Keter Torah in Teaneck, vice president of the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County led prayers for peace, for the safety of Israel’s soldiers, for the safety of its citizens, and for the continued support of the United States. (For more rally photographs, see page 19.)

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