Political and Jewish community leaders gathered at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in downtown Washington, D.C., on Oct. 17 to demonstrate a commitment to the support and security of the state of Israel.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), urged congressional leaders in attendance to stand with Israel and include $500 million in funding for a security grant program in an emergency supplemental appropriations package.
The ADL and a coalition of national Jewish organizations sent a letter urging President Biden to request $500 million in Nonprofit Security Grant Program funding to protect synagogues and other Jewish communal institutions as part of an emergency aid package for Israel.
The letter was also signed by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Jewish Federations of North America, American Jewish Committee, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Hadassah, Hillel International, JCC Association of North America, National Council of Jewish Women, Rabbinical Assembly, Secure Community Network, Union for Reform Judaism and United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism.
According to an ADL spokesperson, the additional funding would provide grants to ensure synagogues and other Jewish communal institutions have everything from extra security guards and cameras to fortifying walls and windows and updating existing security. The grants would make increased security possible without undermining the respective budgets of these community organizations.
The grant program is especially critical now, as the ADL has already registered an increase in antisemitic incidents following the Hamas terrorist attacks on Oct. 7.
Between Oct. 7 and 14, the ADL’s Center on Extremism recorded 118 antisemitic incidents across the U.S. – a 66% increase within that single week, a number the spokesperson said is expected to continue to rise.
“This isn’t just Israel’s fight, this is America’s fight – this is the fight of the free world against terror,” Greenblatt said.
Greenblatt’s remarks followed those of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and preceded remarks by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, all of whom expressed unwavering bipartisan support for Israel.
Schumer, who returned from a bipartisan delegation to Israel one day prior to the event, pledged that the U.S. Senate would do everything possible to help Israel win and “totally eliminate the threat Hamas presents.”
“We Jews know this type of horror,” Schumer said after sharing his own family’s story of his great-grandmother during the Holocaust.
As Schumer and other speakers noted, the stories from Oct. 7 will stay with the Jewish people for a long time to come.
Noa Ben Artzi, a survivor of the massacre at the Nova music festival in southern Israel on Oct. 7, told her story to those in the synagogue, those watching the live stream and the world.
“We started hearing what we thought was fireworks that the music festival arranged. When I opened the tent, I realized chaos was in front of me – hundreds of people were running towards me, when I looked up in the sky I saw hundreds of rockets above me,” Ben Artzi said.
After fleeing in separate cars, they came upon a shelter – a cement box with no doors and about 30 to 40 people inside, according to Ben Artzi. But the shelter was also attacked. Ben Artzi recounted the attack in harrowing detail, as people fled a second time and grenades were thrown into the shelter. After the blasts, she found herself trapped under a body while the terrorists began to burn bodies in the entrance of the shelter.
“I breathed, I inhaled that smoke and I fought for my life for three and a half hours,” Ben Artzi said.
Support for Israel, the survivors, victims and hostages endures and takes many forms.
Immediately following the event, 50 leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and Jewish Federations of North America flew to Israel on an emergency solidarity mission. There, they met with government figures and urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to prioritize freeing hostages after the leaders met with the families.
“The families of people being held hostage in Gaza reminded us clearly: ‘There is no greater mitzvah than to bring back the captives,’” William Daroff said.
Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, was one of those leaders who traveled to Jerusalem after the event.
Before leaving, Daroff said in an interview that the most important thing is to recognize that the Jewish people must be unified to be strong, which is why expressions of solidarity are critical.
“We are one people, and we are strongest when we act as one people,” Daroff said.
Daroff pointed to the event at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue as a shining example of a multitude of Jewish organizations standing together with Israel and its people.