Along with thousands of others from Northern New Jersey, I traveled to Washington D.C to participate in the National Rally for Israel last week. I know that many of those who are reading this have read the accounts of this massive event. It is being called the largest pro-Israel rally ever. I know that many of you were able to livestream some or all of the rally, and hear the speakers and entertainers.
I would like to share with three brief observations that might not have been evident through a computer, television screen, or news reports about this event.
1. Never again.
We are fond of saying “never again” when it comes to standing up to those who would harm us. But never again requires organization, logistics, teamwork, and cooperation. I was on one of the dozens of buses organized by our local Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. With only about eight or nine days to prepare, the Jewish Federations of North America organized this massive rally, whose numbers far exceeded expectations. It’s hard to imagine what it takes to plan a rally of this magnitude, much less to have it turn out so successfully. It demands organizing thousands of buses from all across the country, securing the National Mall in Washington; interfacing with every level of government, including the Department of Homeland Security, for what became what is known as a Level 1 event, demanding security precautions akin to the Super Bowl or the Olympics.
And everything turned out perfectly. The response and attendance proved that the Jewish and pro-Israel community in America needed this type of rally. Thank God there are Jewish communal organizations with the experience, resources, and political clout to make such an event happen on such short notice. They deserve our gratitude, and even more importantly, our continued support.
On the eve of this brutal war, Israeli society was marked by division. The judicial reform movement in Israel, combined with the inclusion of some truly awful leaders in the current Israeli government, had divided the Israeli public, worried Israel’s allies, and frightened the American Jewish community. The divisions in Israeli society had a terrible impact on American Jewry as well. Yet when the war began, the Israeli public came together. The achdut, the unity, that now pervades Israeli society has been widely reported both in the Israeli press and beyond. That same unity was evident at the rally in Washington. The participants represented the entire religious and political spectrum of American Jewry and the pro-Israel community. Wisely, the rally was assembled to aim towards those principles that all could agree on:
Pride in our Judaism and in the face of antisemitism
Support for Israel
Demand the immediate release of the hostages
It was not a pro government or anti-government rally. It did not it seek to tell Israel what it should or should not do. It aimed for the center, and the entire Jewish community responded. Despite the gravity of the hour, the mood at the rally was upbeat, even festive at times. And it was a far cry from the ugliness and violence that has characterized so many of the pro-Palestinian demonstrations (actually, pro Hamas if we are being honest) that have taken place in major cities across the world. Americans who care about Israel should be proud of this rally, and its message.
3. Bipartisan support for Israel
On Tuesday, November 14, a bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives at night averted a potential government shutdown that would have started last Friday night. While this is welcome news, you can only imagine what a busy day it must have been for the congressional leadership. So just consider what it meant for the speaker of the House, Mike Johnson and the House minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries, stood with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the rally, to demonstrate unwavering bipartisan support for Israel. It’s a signal not only to Israel, but to us as well. This is a bitter fight, one that Israel cannot lose. And in this fight, we are not alone. That is not a Republican message, or a Democratic message. It is a unified statement from the most powerful Americans in elected office.
These are difficult days for our communities. We are worried about Israel, worried about the hostages, and worried about the uptick in antisemitism at home and abroad. This rally and all it represented is a reminder to all who are watching that despite the challenges, we are here, we are proud and we will use our voices to advocate forcefully for our future and for the future of the Jewish people.
Arthur Weiner is the rabbi of the Jewish Community Center of Paramus / Congregation Beth Tikvah.