Remembering the captives
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Remembering the captives

One year ago, Israeli soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser, and Eldad Regev were kidnapped by militant Islamic groups. To mark the anniversary of their capture, the Jewish community will rally in New York City on Monday "to make our voices heard … and demand their immediate and unconditional release," said Ruth Siev, special projects coordinator for the Jewish Community Relations Council of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey.


Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev

"We want the issue to stay front and center in people’s minds," she said. "We want to raise the consciousness of the world, reminding them that despite the U.N. resolution ending the Lebanon war, the Israeli soldiers are still in captivity."

When the New York-bound bus leaves the federation headquarters in River Edge at 10 a.m. on July 16, it will help local Jews add their voices to the outcry, sending a "unified message" to the world that the situation is intolerable, said Siev. The Free the Soldiers Rally, to be held rain or shine in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (47th Street and First Avenue) at noon, is being sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, in cooperation with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, United Jewish Communities, UJA-Federation of New York, and the American Zionist Movement.

"Many people have expressed interest," said Siev, who hopes the turnout at the rally, taking place this year when many people are on vacation, will match or exceed last year’s showing of 35,000. She noted that Michael Miller, executive vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council in New York, said that ‘0 buses are being sent from overnight camps.

"Those who work in New York or will be visiting that day should try to take an hour off to attend this important rally," said Siev, adding that participants are encouraged to carry signs bearing the names and photos of the kidnapped soldiers (available on the UJA Website, www.ujannj.org). Siev also pointed out that while wooden sticks may not be used to carry posters, according to N.Y. security regulations, wrapping-paper rolls are ideal for mounting them.

According to Siev, even people who cannot attend the rally can sign a petition addressed to the U.N. demanding the release of the soldiers. The petition can be found online at the UJA-NNJ Website and at www.freethesoldiers.org — not to be confused with freethesoldiers.com, which is a Christian site. Boxes of petitions will be delivered to the U.N. immediately after the rally, which will feature Karnit and Miki Goldwasser, the wife and mother of hostage Ehud Goldwasser.

Free the Soldiers, which represents a broad base of national Jewish organizations and community leaders advocating on behalf of the soldiers and their families, continues to publicize the plight not only of Shalit, Regev, and Goldwasser, but also of Israel’s other missing soldiers, Zachary Baumel, Tzvi Feldman, Yehudah Katz, Ron Arad, and Guy Hever.

Siev said the organization is planning to produce new dog tags bearing the names of all these soldiers. It will also create ‘-foot by 4-foot banners for synagogues and schools to display, serving as a constant reminder of the plight of the kidnapped soldiers.

The mitzvah of pidyon shvuyim — redemption of captives — "is one of the most important mandates of our Jewish faith," said Siev. Citing the Shulchan Aruch, she noted that "in the words of our sages: ‘Freeing captives is the greatest form of charity, and it supersedes all other causes.’" With this in mind, she said, the UJA Website contains a prayer Jews can recite on behalf of the hostages.

For additional information about Monday’s rally, call Alice Blass, (’01) 488-6800, ext. ’09.

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