(New York, NY) — Prominent political, religious, and communal leaders joined American Jewish leaders on January 11, 2009 outside of the Israeli Consulate in New York City to support Israels right to self-defense and to fight the terrorism waged by Hamas in Gaza. Similar rallies are being held around the country in connection to the Week of Solidarity across North America (Coordinated nationally by United Jewish Communities: The Federations of North America, and its UJC/JCPA Israel Advocacy Initiative). Nearly 10,000 activists came together to show solidarity with the people of Israel, sympathy for all people who are hurt and in harm’s way, and hope for a solid cease-fire, which will end the rocket attacks on the people of southern Israel and ultimately pave the way for peace in the future.

UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York co-sponsored the rally, which featured speakers including a range of elected officials, religious leaders, and representatives of many ethnic communities, sending a united message of identification with Israel during these trying times. It is not only the Jewish community that is standing up and being supportive, but also Americans and New Yorkers from a wide array of backgrounds and beliefs.

Featured speakers included Governor David Paterson; Congressman Peter King; Congressman Eliot Engel; Congressman Jerrold Nadler; Congressman Anthony Weiner; Congressman Steve Israel; Congressman Gary Ackerman; Asaf Shariv, consul general of Israel in New York; Christine Quinn, New York City Council Speaker; Scott Stringer, Manhattan borough president; Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn borough president; Fred Teng, director of Chinese Community Relations Council; Ninfa Segarra, senior advisor at Tonio Burgos & Associates and founding member of COMPAS, A Consortium of Latino Clergy and Community Leaders; Bishop Roderick Caesar, Bethel Gospel Tabernacle; and John Calvelli, chair emeritus of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations and board member of the National Italian American Foundation.

This is a rally about peace, said Governor David Paterson. This is a rally about the preservation of peace. This is a rally that I hope brings us peace. We recognize the right of the state of Israel to protect itself, Governor Paterson declared, as he donned a red cap uniting him with the crowd of 10,000 people, symbolizing the code red alarms that give Israelis 15 seconds to get to shelters when a Qassam rocket is launched by Hamas. The sea of red represented hope to end the need for code red alarms bringing peace to all.

The rally provided an opportunity for the broadest spectrum of the New York Jewish community to come together and express solidarity with the people of Israel, said John S. Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation. There is a broad consensus that the government of Israel could not sit by idly as rockets rained down daily on southern Israel. The endless barrage of missiles followed the unilateral withdrawal of Israel from Gaza in 2005. It gave Palestinian leadership the opportunity to actualize their rhetorical commitment to model a two state solution. Not only did they regrettably fail that test, but missiles followed. What a lost opportunity–for all peoples in the region.”

Michael Miller, executive vice president and CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, said, Israel has been under attack for the past eight years, subjected almost daily to barrages of short- and long-range rockets and mortars. As an act of self defense, after years of restraint, Israel is taking the steps necessary to protect its citizens within its borders as recognized by the United Nations.

Unfortunately, the picture being painted of Israel is that of an aggressor. Israel is anything but that. Our standing in front of the consulate of Israel is a major display of solidarity and support for Israel as it seeks to live in safety and security, Miller added.

Our community came together and expressed, by its presence and its voice, its commitment to Israel, Ruskay said.
We will continue to support the state of Israel, the people of Israel are never far from our minds and thats why we are here today. While Israel tries to protect civilians, Hamas chooses to exploit theirs. Together we will not stand silent now, not ever, said John Shapiro, president of UJA-Federation of New York.