In Support of Israel

Yesterday I went to a rally in New York City in support of Israel. It was held across the street from the United Nations, and was reported on in papers today, including the Washington Post. I was joined in the broiling sun by an estimated ten thousand others who also came forward to support Israel. While there were many Jews in the crowd, there were also those who come from other communities to stand together with the Jewish community and the state of Israel. The speakers, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Elie Weisel, made it clear that the United States stands together with Israel in the war against terrorism. As I meandered through the crowd, I had two thoughts related to JOI.

The first was that many of JOI’s supporters work with us because they are concerned about the future of Israel. They believe that reaching interfaith families is crucial to maintaining a sizeable, influential Jewish community in North America that will continue to exercise political support for the state of Israel. The second was that I was mindful of JOI critics who contend that support for the state of Israel—an important measurement of Jewish identity from their perspective—is low in priority for interfaith couples. I don’t know how many non-Jews or intermarried folks were in the crowd, but I did realize that this rally and the others planned across the country provide interfaith families with an opportunity to prove that they are wrong. So see what you can do to challenge the critics and stand with Israel.


  1. I am sure there were many intermarried couples in the crowd yesterday who care about and support Israel. There are also intermarried couples (and unaffiliated as well as affiliated Jews) who were not there. And I’m not sure it’s because Israel is off their radar screen, but rather that they feel confused and conflicted about the political situation in Israel. I think that unfortunately many of the younger generation feel on the outside of the Jewish community when they disagree with Israeli policy. They think that the only option is “to support” Israel (which some people do not want to do, not because they don’t think Israel should exist, but because “support” can be understood as endorsing particular policies). But there is a diversity of voices within the organized Jewish community that one can engage with. I truly believe that a Jewish community that is embracing of open debate and accepting of a range of opinions across the political spectrum will strengthen our community as well as Israel.

    Comment by Julie Seltzer, JOI — July 18, 2006 @ 3:17 pm

  2. While you and I may disagree about Israel’s policies, even now as Israel is being bombarded by rockets from Gaza and Lebanon and being used as a proxy in the standoff between the US and Iran, I think that we do agree that we have to get Israel on the radar screen of folks, especailly those who are younger, unaffiliated and members of interfaith families.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — July 18, 2006 @ 3:31 pm

  3. Totally agree with Rabbi Olitzky. I am part of Generation X and I get frustrated with a lot of people I know are choose to be apathetic to what is going on in Israel. Its not that they don’t “support” the state in Israel, its just that they choose to stay out of the media debates and don’t engage colleagues at work or others around them. They for some reason, choose to remain silent. Perhaps they think others in the Jewish community will speak up for them.

    Comment by Jackie — July 19, 2006 @ 7:24 am

  4. lately it has become quite controversial to be pro-israeli, and the label has become a rather stark one. i can think of very few causes where one must adhere to every tenant of belief and action in order to be considered a proponent for that cause. all causes are better off with some debate. silence or discussion only among like-minded individuals is circular and ineffectual. however, these can be protective, if unadventurous, retreats from the hostility one is often unfortunately faced with when expressing support for israel.

    the label of jew also seems to carry some absolute connotations. many people assume that a person is going to feel a certain way about israel, based almost entirely on religion. most of the time i feel like a double agent but without the snappy car. i look slavic, have a christian name but affliate as jewish.

    when people presume that i am christian, they are either surprised that i care as much as i do about israel, or they feel they can toss around loaded terms like “occupied” or “resistance” with impunity (or, if they’re evangelical christians and are hoping i’m one too, bring up the second coming, which is a whole other stream of consciousness.). alternatively, when non-jews presume that i am jewish, they either place some vicarious blame on me for israel’s actions, provide some condescending assurance that they know i’m “not like that,” or wonder where my “i heart carpet bombing” t-shirt is. within the jewish community, opinions run along a wider spectrum. i have very rarely encountered apathy, but i have wondered where all these voices go after synagogue.

    genetic lineage certainly did not factor into my absence at the israel rally. the only reason i did not attend was that i only found out about it after the fact. i might not endorse every israeli policy, but i love israel and think about it every day. when the occasion arises, i speak out and hope that this might encourage others to as well. israel is the heritage of every jew, but it is also the hope of a multitude of others.

    Comment by kristin — July 25, 2006 @ 10:08 am

  5. I am a Jew by choice. I am married to a born Jew. Be both love Israel and have spent the last two weeks reading every piece of information about Israel and participating in every debate we could. We, however, do not endorse at all the current Israeli strategy (we believe it’s way too dangerous and, despite all measures taken, too many innocent civilians are dying because of Israeli attacks).
    I will always support the state of Israel, but even if victory is achieved, I think it would be a tragedy to achieve it by overlooking the values that are dearest to Judaism, the values that made me fall in love with it.
    Peace will take a lot of work, honesty and commitment from all parties, including us Jews everywhere.
    My heart goes out for all the innocent Israelis and Lebanese people killed in these days.
    When demonstrating our support for Israel, let’s acknowledge the tragedy of war and advocate for nonviolent methods.

    Comment by Yamit — July 26, 2006 @ 11:51 am

  6. I do not belong to a synagogue but would like to know about any rallies planned to support Israel in NY or DC or to know how else I can show my support for Israel. What is a good source of information?

    Comment by elaine — August 5, 2006 @ 12:44 pm

  7. The best source for rallies is the local Jewish Federation (in NYC it is UJA/Fed) or the local anglo-Jewish newspaper (such as the NY JEwish Week) and their relevant websites.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — August 6, 2006 @ 12:22 am

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