Six-Month Anniversary of Oct. 7 Marked by Nationwide Letter-Writing Campaign

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The Orthodox Union’s Rabbi Moshe Hauer addressing the media, flanked by letters to be delivered to the White House. Photos courtesy of the Orthodox Union.

A recent campaign organized by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (Orthodox Union) garnered 180,000 physical letters that were hand delivered to the White House on April 3, asking President Joe Biden to do everything possible to secure the release of the hostages still being held by Hamas.

The OU’s “180 for 180” national letter-writing effort culminated with the delivery of the letters and a press conference on the 180th day since Oct. 7.

The OU was able to gather the letters over the course of just one week, with a nationwide call for people to either sign a prewritten letter or one with some modifications and then mail it in or have the OU print electronically signed ones.

“We wanted to clearly communicate to the White House. We wanted to demonstrate as vividly as we could that there are plenty of people standing with Israel and looking to the president to continue to stand with Israel,” said Nathan Diament, executive director of public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

Diament said that there was a push to do this event for the six-month anniversary of the attacks and the kidnapping of the hostages, and that was something important to OU as they’ve been at the forefront of multiple advocacy efforts since Oct. 7.

“We realized we were coming up on 180 days, six months, and we felt there was a lot of desire in the community to do something, to push particularly the president to continue to stand with Israel, to highlight the hostages and also to talk again about the need to combat the rise of antisemitism,” Diament said.

The event kicked off with a press conference detailing the significance of the initiative and speaking in depth about the three major points of the letter, which were asking President Biden to stand strong with Israel, asking that everything be done to free the hostages, and to do more to combat antisemitism in the U.S.

Each of the three points had separate speakers, with the first being Rabbi Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, who spoke about the ongoing support that the Jewish community needs from the Biden administration.

“Today, hundreds of thousands of members and friends of the American Jewish community stood together, asking President Biden for complete and continued moral and material support for Israel’s mission to finish the job of defeating Hamas,” Hauer said in a statement.

Maurice Shnaider, the uncle of Shiri Bibas, who has been held in captivity with her husband, Yarden, and their two young children, Ariel and Kfir, then spoke about the urgent need to secure the release of the hostages.

Shnaider said that it’s always incredibly difficult to fully express everything that he wants to say on the matter, and that he could talk about it for hours. He added that he feels there is not nearly enough mention of the hostages from news outlets and people talking about the conflict.

There was also a video from Rachel Goldberg-Polin, the mother of American-Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who pleaded for the release of her son and all the hostages still being held by Hamas.

“Every single person who is working in these negotiations has to lean in harder. Everyone has to compromise more, everyone has to go to the furthest extent of pushing the leverage they have on the parties involved to make sure that day 180 does not turn into day 280, 380, 480,” Goldberg-Polin said.

The event also featured University of Maryland student Keren Binyamin, who spoke about the issues that she and her fellow students are experiencing on college campuses since the beginning of the war.

She said that there’s concern over the growing prominence of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, people justifying the Oct. 7 attacks, and a range of other antisemitic rhetoric and actions from students and some faculty members.

The press conference then concluded with a video from a Holocaust survivor, Bronia Brandman, who shared her letter to President Biden, one of the letters being hand delivered that day.

Brandman’s letter and the other 180,000 letters were taken to the White House, where several OU leaders, including Diament, met with White House aides and delivered several boxes of letters directly, while the remaining ones were sent through the White House mail room.

Diament said that the OU representatives spoke with the White House staff about the three main points of the letter and about the importance of the Jewish community giving feedback to the administration.

“They [the White House staff] talked about how important it is for the community to communicate its views to the White House,” Diament said.

And while this event was important and impactful, Diament said they’re hoping it will be the last one of its kind that they ever have to organize.

“We’re hoping to not reach other significant milestones. Israel will defeat Hamas and the hostages will be released as soon as possible,” Diament said.

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