When Everything Changes
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There are times when everything changes.
We experienced this five years ago when a gunman filled with hatred towards the Jewish people stormed the Tree of Life synagogue building in Pittsburgh and murdered 11 congregants as they prayed.
Three weeks ago, we were confronted with an unimaginable horror when the terrorist organization Hamas massacred more than 1,500 innocent Israeli civilians and took hundreds more as hostages. Hamas’ brutal rampage on October 7 was the worst massacre in Jewish history since the Holocaust.
Since the gruesome and intentional slaughter of innocent civilians by Hamas, we have seen segments of the broader community not only support these inhuman actions but justify the atrocities.
The hatred of the Jewish people and the state of Israel is unmistakable in their rally chants and posts on social media; their actions on college campuses towards Jewish students; their acts of vandalism of Jewish institutions and other attempts at intimidation; and inflammatory remarks at city council meetings. Today we know there are those who hate Jews so much that they are not even able to condemn unequivocally the unthinkable brutality of Hamas.
When seismic change occurs instantaneously in times like these, our perspectives sharpen and clarity is forced onto us.
Five years ago, we immediately understood that Jewish communities needed enhanced security to help safeguard our vibrant and welcoming Jewish community. We got smarter through training and collaboration with local and national law enforcement agencies. We invested more in experienced security personnel and technology. And we continue to make our security a top priority.
In the past three weeks, we have come to equally painful realizations that have spurred us to action in the only way we know how in Cleveland – together.
Together we have raised our voice in support of Israel and are having the needed, and sometimes uncomfortable conversations, with friends, colleagues, and strangers. We are providing immediate relief and support to victims of terror in Israel through the support of such agencies as the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), World ORT, Israel Trauma Coalition, United Hatzalah, Magen David Adom, ZAKA, Barzilai Medical Center, the Soroka Medical Center, and others through our community’s Israel Emergency Campaign. Together, we have already raised more than $30 million and are putting these funds to work immediately.
The critical dollars raised in the Israel Emergency Campaign is in addition to money from the annual Campaign for Jewish Needs that we invest each year in humanitarian programs and services in our own community and in Israel. It is because of the generous support of our community’s annual campaign that we had the human and financial resources in place to respond immediately to this terrorist attack.
At the same time, we are also finding other ways to help support our Israeli brothers and sisters together – whether it be through various volunteering opportunities, attending local city council meetings and other forums, or challenging media biases.
For example, we are beginning to welcome displaced Israeli families to Cleveland and helping them get settled into life in Northeast Ohio. We also are maintaining close contact with loved ones in Israel – including our former shinshinim – to provide them comfort and assure them that they are not alone in this war against terror and will never be alone.
Similarly, it is important that we continue to reinforce for ourselves that we are not alone in our fight for Israel and against Jew hatred. So please join us at two upcoming community gatherings.
On Sunday, October 29, musicians from the Cleveland Orchestra will be performing a series of free concerts at The Temple Tifereth-Israel (see details here). On Monday, October 30 at 6 pm at the Mendy and Ita Klein Oakwood Campus of the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, we will be holding a vigil for the more than 200 civilian hostages taken by Hamas during their attack. This event will feature remarks from clergy and community members. The vigil is free of charge, but registration is strongly encouraged. For more information, click here.
In the same way that this could be a long war in Israel, our fight here is far from over. In fact, our voices need to continue to get louder and our work to combat the anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric must grow and expand to effect the change needed for the vibrant and secure future we want for all of our children in Cleveland and in Israel.
On behalf of the entire Board of Trustees and staff of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, thank you for all you do to ensure Jewish Cleveland is a unified community – one that is strong, fully awake, and supportive of each other, our families, friends, and allies. None of what has been accomplished already would have been possible without you. Likewise, none of what still needs to be done can happen without you.
May those who are being held captive be returned to their loved ones immediately. May those hurting have a full and speedy recovery (refuah shleimah). May all those grieving be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. And may the memories of those who have fallen be for a blessing that inspires us all.
Shabbat Shalom. Am Yisrael Chai.
Daniel N. Zelman
Erika B. Rudin-Luria