Local synagogues addressed their congregations and issued public statements in the first days of the unfolding, dark tale of terrorism in Israel that has left over 1,000 civilians dead, 2,800 injured and 150 in captivity.
While the Israel Defense Forces were able to regain control of towns infiltrated by Hamas, the country has declared a state of war and continues to retaliate with airstrikes on Gaza.
“We pledge our full support to the people of Israel, even as we may not know now what will be required of us. As a religious community, we begin with prayer. In this, we are present in full voice, aching hearts, and emphatic unity,” said Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid’s Rabbi Joel Alter and Congregation President Menachem Henny Graupe.
Jane Avner, the president of Lake Park Synagogue, said congregants shed tears while reciting a prayer for Israel during a memorial service. “Our congregation has deep connections with Israel as a country, and with many personal connections…one congregant has a brother there, and a granddaughter on a gap year program. Another couple has a son living there. Still another has a sister, a daughter, and many grandchildren about whom we are all concerned. Just about all of us have relatives and friends to whom we are sending our prayers,” Avner said.
Fourteen American citizens have been killed and over 20 remain missing, according to statements from the White House. President Biden also confirmed in a news conference on Oct. 10 that Americans are among those who have been taken hostage by Hamas.
Rabbi Noah Chertkoff of Congregation Shalom said, “This is a time for solidarity and a time for us to raise our voices in support of our friends and relatives in Israel.”
Although Israel has experienced stark political divides as of late, Rabbi David B. Cohen of Congregation Sinai said, “at such a moment, there ceases to be a “right” and “left” politically in Israel – self-defense takes precedence.” Within days, Israelis moved to form a unity government.