These were remarks made by UJA-President Alisa R. Doctoroff to the New York Stands With Israel rally on July 28th in Manhattan.
On behalf of UJA-Federation of New York and the incomparable community we represent, I want to thank you for being here today. You have come from many different places to be here (there are even busloads of kids from camp) – Jews of widely varied backgrounds and beliefs to send a message of solidarity and support to the people of Israel, as well as to all who can hear in this country and beyond. Your voice, your passion, and your presence matters.
While I’ve always known that this was the case, I saw it first hand, on a human level, when I went to Israel two weeks ago. Part of a delegation of North American Jews, I was there to deliver a message of solidarity. I saw that our presence – and by extension, the presence of the millions back here at home, and this strong and caring Jewish community in front of me today – our presence mattered.
It mattered to the officials and community leaders of municipalities from Ashkelon, Sderot and Beersheva. It mattered to the 16 year-old injured by rocket fire and to his parents standing by his bedside. It mattered to mothers whose children were playing in sheltered spaces, to residents of vulnerable kibbutzim on the border. To new immigrants in absorption centers. You could see it in their eyes, feel it in their words. It mattered to them to see that they are not alone. To hear our simple message: We are here for you.
While we may be separated by thousands of miles, by experience, by citizenship, we are here for you. You are us and we are you. Am echad. One people. Lev echad. One heart.
A simple message: We are here for you.
While your young people are taking their lives in their hands to fight terrorism on your borders. While you run for cover at the sound of sirens – women on their way to work; children in day care; the disabled whose lives are hard enough without worrying how they will get to a shelter. While barrages of rockets fly in response to a humanitarian cease fire. While Hamas, a terrorist organization threatens not only our people, but uses its own people callously and manipulatively as human shields. We are here for you. And we grieve for the loss of all innocent life.
We are here for you when you need respite. UJA- Federation has taken 55,000 children away from harms way for something children should have during their summer vacation – fun. We are providing for others to play safely in shelters, supervised by young volunteers.
We are here for you when you need food and shelter. We are equipping bomb shelters and safe rooms to meet the needs of people with disabilities. We are delivering meals, medicine and other supplies to homebound elderly.
We are here for you when you need healing. We are providing trauma counseling for people – young and old – coping with all levels of acute psychological trauma, trauma that will not dissipate any time soon.
When this crisis escalated, UJA-Federation immediately joined with Jewish federations around the country and committed to providing for these critical needs, through our partners on the ground, JDC and JAFI, and the ITC. We are providing for acute needs today and will provide for needs long after the last rocket is fired and, hopefully, the last tunnel uncovered.
Our CEO, Eric Goldstein is in Israel as we speak with a group of 20 New Yorkers, continuing to bring this message and our commitment to provide to the people of Israel. And, I know that you will be here as well, raising your voices: We are here for you.
Thank you for being here today. I leave you with the words, highlighted by our CEO in an email message last week, words that we say when we complete reading each book of the Torah. When we completed the book of Numbers this last Shabbat we said: Chazak, chazak vi’nitchazek. Be strong, be strong and let us strengthen one another. No words could be more appropriate today.