Locals gather to support Israel
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Locals gather to support Israel

Some 600 people came to Cong. Keter Torah in Teaneck Sunday night to show their solidarity with the State of Israel. Jeanette Friedman

As the Israel Defense Forces responded to the Gazan missiles raining down on Israeli cities, more than 600 men, women, and children in the area – heeding the call of the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County – gathered at Keter Torah in Teaneck on Sunday to recite psalms. While the gathering was called for 7 p.m., the synagogue was filled to capacity by 7:10, with standing room only in the lobby.

Rabbi Neil Winkler of the Young Israel of Fort Lee opened with a sermon playing on the Hebrew words “bitachon,” security, and “bitochon,” faith – one focusing on the “material,” the other on the “spiritual.” He described how, for its survival, the Jewish people needed both. He also told the story of Joseph – a tale of jealousy and hatred, miscommunications, misunderstandings, and finally, inclusion and reconciliation.

Winkler elaborated on this in a subsequent e-mail. He noted that, “Joseph, unaware of the fact that his father thought he had been killed, waited anxiously for some word from his father. When there was no attempt to contact him, to help him, he assumed that he had been excluded from the family, no longer part of the children of Israel…. Such is … what happens when family fails to feel and identify with the pain of a family member.”

He said that he “tied this in to the need to identify with our brethren in Israel during this difficult time.”

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Ahavath Torah in Englewood said later that the gathering was a spontaneous outpouring of prayer and faith – a statement that was a little different from the usual calls to political activism.

Said Goldin, “The traditional response is to turn to God and beseech Him for protection. It is something the Jewish community should do. It is a kiddush HaShem, a sanctification of God’s name, and it serves a number of purposes. It is, above all, a fundamental turning to God as a community. It unites the community and is viable proof of how we come together in the face of adversity. It also sends a clear message to our brothers and sisters in Israel that we stand with them.”

Gigi Alster of Fair Lawn interpreted what she heard “on a personal level and across the board. We have to come together now, but we should always be together. Rabbi Winkler’s speech about Yosef and how he suffered shows that though we have free will, God still controls events…. Some things are in God’s hands and we don’t understand it all, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions. It’s a matter of grappling with your faith. It’s all in the story – the family, the community, the nation.”

Teaneck resident Anne Senter, whose son and his family live in Jerusalem, said, “It is possible that because the Israeli elections are coming up, left-wing politicians are being more proactive than they normally would be, and that perhaps this time we can take out the [Hamas] launching sites for good. I think that in light of those thousands of missiles fired at Israeli cities, the American people understand that Israel is not at fault here. But we have to pray that God will grant that the conflict will end with good results and that soldiers will return home safely. Perhaps, then, peace will finally prevail.”

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