“We raise our voices to stand with Israel,” was a refrain heard over and over in an emotional rally that brought an estimated 15,000 members of the New York Jewish community together in midtown Manhattan July 28th to show collective support for Israel during this time of crisis.

Alisa Doctoroff
Alisa Doctoroff, president of UJA-Federation of New York, speaks at rally to support Israel.

“Jews of widely varied backgrounds and beliefs today send a message of support to all of Israel: We are here for you,” UJA-Federation President Alisa Doctoroff said.  “Thank you for being here today. Your voice, your passion, your presence matters.” She spoke of her visit to Israel two weeks ago on a solidarity mission, saying that the message she and others brought to Israel was clear and reflected the rally’s message to Israelis: “You are us and we are you. One people, one heart.”

Echoing many other speakers, Doctoroff said, “We all grieve for the loss of all innocent life.” But she and others said that Hamas must stop its military actions that have caused so many deaths.

The rally was organized by UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC), along with the New York Board of Rabbis, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and a broad spectrum of groups representing Jewish life, noted Michael Miller, executive vice president and CEO of JCRC. The Orthodox Union, Union for Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and the National Council of Young Israel also helped organize the rally.

Picking up the theme of “raising our voices,” Senator Charles Schumer energized the crowd when he said, “As long as we have the ability to raise our voices, I am confident here in America and in Israel, am yisrael chai, the people of Israel live.” He also added, “We seek peace and regret the loss of life on both sides of the Gaza border, but we will have no peace until after Hamas’s weapons are gone.”

Senator Schumer was one of several federal, state, and city elected officials who addressed the rally. As he spoke, rallygoers waved hundreds of American and Israeli flags and signs reading “I Stand With Israel” and “We Are All Israel.”

Longing for Peace

The yearning for peace was loud and clear when Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University, stood before the crowd. “We long for our children to hear songs of harmony, not sirens,” he said, “but [when there are those] committed to the noise of hatred, our voices will be raised in standing with Israel.”

Rabbi Aaron Panken, president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Arnold Eisen, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, also expressed messages of peace and support for Israel.

Ido Aharoni, consul general of Israel in New York was especially appreciative of the outpouring of solidarity. “I’m here to express our gratitude on behalf of all Israelis for your support,” he said. “We are facing an uncompromising enemy that seeks our destruction. We cannot face Israel’s enemies alone. Thank you for your help and friendship.” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, added, “Seeing you here, united for Israel, before the UN, is an amazing sight.”

Many camps, including Camp Mesorah, Camp Morasha, Camp Moshava, and Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, bused in campers for the rally, and four young campers came on stage to do readings from Psalms.

A spirited moment came as the Maccabeats, the a cappella group that started at Yeshiva University, led the crowd in enthusiastic singing.

A number of non-Jewish speakers voiced support for Israel as well. “Today we came to stand together,” said Rev. Jacques DeGraff of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem.

The rally ended with Cantor Azi Schwartz of Park Avenue Synagogue saying the El malei rachamim prayer and then leading the crowd in HaTikvah.