Local Jewish organizations have been working overtime since the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7 to run prayer services, rallies and other communitywide events in support of Israel.
A multitude of pro-Israel events have been occurring practically daily in the greater Washington area, bringing together thousands of people to stand with Israel and mourn for the victims who lost their lives in the massacre. Many of the events have featured prayers, songs, speakers who have denounced the attacks and government officials that have come to show solidarity.
“Both my kids made aliyah; my son is in the military right now. This is very important. We need to stand strong and show that Israel has the support of everyone in America,” said Allison Green, a Potomac resident who attended the Stand with Israel rally in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 13.
Events throughout the community largely began on Oct. 9, two days after the attacks, with Chabad of Louden County hosting a vigil with Viginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Adas Israel Congregation and Washington Hebrew Congregation hosted a vigil on the night of Oct. 10 in partnership with other D.C. area synagogues and local Jewish organizations, where over a thousand people gathered to pray for Israel, mourn those who lost their lives and express support.
“Each tragic loss of life, each hostage taken, is not just another number,” said Adas Israel Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt. “Resilience is our birthright, it’s in our DNA.”
“At this moment, I am heartbroken. Every time I watch the news, I feel more pain, and yet I know I have the responsibility to watch, to feel, to cry,” said Gil Preuss, Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
“We stand together to emphatically reject terrorism in all its forms, and to say with one voice that antisemitism has no place in our institutions, our country, our world or our hearts, said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who noted she regrettably was standing in front of the Jewish community yet again after another tragedy, but wanted to show support and promise resources to ensure the safety of the Jewish community.
The speakers preached unity and solidarity and thanked the community for all it is doing to help. The Israeli Embassy’s Deputy Head of Mission Eliav Benjamin said that the phones in the embassy were inundated with calls offering support.
“The unity of the community is in this room and everywhere,” Benjamin said. “This is one thing that Hamas did not take into account; that this would bring us all together.”
The Pozez Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia held a vigil for solidarity and hope on Oct. 12, where 1,600 people and 30 Jewish organizations joined together to show their solidarity and express their emotions about the situation, according to Pozez Senior Director of Marketing and Communications Laura Adler.
“It was a poignant program that included song, prayer and moving testimonies to bring feelings of solidarity and support to our community whose hearts and hopes for peace are with Israel and with each other,” Adler said over email.
Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac hosted a vigil of Jewish unity and solidarity with Israel on Oct. 12, where a capacity crowd comprised of community members and over two dozen organizational partners from throughout the region joined to express support for Israel.
The communitywide programs in response to the horrific terrorist attacks in Israel continued on Oct. 13, with an event organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. Approximately 3,000 people attended the big Stand with Israel rally on the Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., according to JCRC Executive Director Ron Halber.
The rally lasted over two hours and featured an array of speakers that included Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, foreign diplomats, several U.S. Senators, and leaders of local Jewish organizations.
Virtually every speaker demonstrated an unwavering support of Israel and any military action necessary to secure the release of the hostages and eliminate Hamas, to the cheers of a crowd waving Israeli and American flags and holding posters decrying Hamas and signs honoring the hostages abducted by the Hamas terrorists during the attacks.
“I lived seven years in Israel … this brutal attack of Hamas on Israel is not an abstract horror. For me, it’s a very concrete horror when I speak to friends in Israel … I just want to say we as Germans, who as a nation are responsible for the worst of crimes, hold a special responsibility and we will live up [to it],” German ambassador Andreas Michaelis said.
“We are here to stand with the State of Israel, to recognize the right of Israel to exist, to recognize the right of Israel to defend itself and to recognize the right of Israelis to live without fear,” said Gov. Wes Moore as he addressed the crowd. “But today is not just a time to stand with Israel. It is also a time to stand, unequivocally, against Hamas. Terrorists target civilians, and that’s what Hamas did. Terrorists hold entire families hostage, and that’s what Hamas did. Terrorists slaughter innocent women, children, and the elderly in cold blood, and that’s what Hamas did. If you stand with Israel, you stand against Hamas.”
Halber said the Oct. 13 rally and the many other events JCRC has helped organize are vital to ensure support for Israel during a time of crisis and that these efforts bring the Jewish community together as they work through their emotions following the terrorist attacks.
“I think the Jewish people are stuck in two ways. I think they’re mourning and I think they’re enraged, and I think it’s going take a long time [to work through]. It’s not going to be something that we’re going to forget in a month or in a few weeks, it’s something that’s going to be implanted in our minds for the rest of our lives,” Halber said.