Jews Show Solidarity with Israel at Rallies Across North America

Orthodox and secular Jews, “peaceniks” and members of the anti-Arab Kach movement came together Sunday in rallies, meetings, prayer vigils and demonstrations across North America to show solidarity with Israel, President Bush’s Persian Gulf policy and the troops serving in that region.

At the same time, two national emergency campaigns to raise cash for the embattled State of Israel were initiated.

The State of Israel Bonds Organization announced an effort to secure $100 million in capital within two weeks.

Bonds national headquarters in New York will be open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for bonds purchases, until further notice.

And all 40 Israel Bonds offices in the United States and Canada were open Sunday to kick off the campaign. Within the first four hours of the drive, $12 million of bonds had been sold.

In Canada, United Israel Appeal President Julia Koschitzky asked people to “contribute as much cash as they can” to an emergency cash drive coordinated by the United Jewish Appeal, Combined Jewish Appeal and the United Israel Appeal of Canada.

Walter Hess, UIA Canada executive vice president, received a call from Mendel Kaplan, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel in Jerusalem.

Kaplan said that Keren Hayesod has called on its campaigns around the world to provide $100 million in cash within the next three months.

THOUSANDS RALLY IN NEW YORK

The UJA-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York initiated a two-day emergency telephone appeal and raised some $628,000 in the first two hours of the effort.

In New York, about 40,000 people attended the largest of the solidarity rallies in the United States, according to organizers, though police estimated the crowd at 10,000.

Participants stood under sunny winter skies across the street from the United Nations, as area politicians, community leaders and Israeli government officials were applauded for their exhortations in support of the Jewish state.

Yoram Aridor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, told the crowd, “If we’ve not retaliated yet, it is not because we are weak. This is a sign of strength.”

The Israeli consul general in New York, Uriel Savir, praised U.S. efforts in the Persian Gulf. “When this operation is over, there will be no more Iraqi tanks, missiles, chemical weapons or a president called Saddam Hussein,” he said.

The hastily organized rally, which was put together within a few hours Friday by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, boasted a dais full of New York’s political luminaries.

They included Gov. Mario Cuomo, Mayor David Dinkins, former Mayor Edward Koch, U.S. Sens. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Alfonse D’Amato, and Reps. Stephen Solarz, Charles Schumer and Eliot Engel.

Six-year-old Jonathan Hyman of Roslyn, N.Y., attending the rally with his father, was dressed in a miniature version of Israeli army fatigues, replete with Golani brigade and paratrooper insignias. He approved of the politicians’words, opining that “it’s very nice that they’re saying the right thing.”

Another New Yorker who pushed to the front of the block-deep crowd was 82-year old Rubin Huffman, a World War I veteran who, proudly sporting his Jewish War Veterans cap, said he had heard about the rally during synagogue services Friday night.

He thought that it was “remarkable that so many people are here, considering that they put it together on such short notice.”

THOUSANDS IN MONTREAL AND TORONTO

These were scenes repeated Sunday across North America on a smaller, but no less remarkable, scale.

In the largest show of solidarity with Israel in Montreal since the Six-Day War, 4,200 people attended a rally at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, sponsored by the Quebec region of the Canada-Israel Committee.

Canadian Secretary of State Gerald Weiner brought “best wishes and heartfelt words of sympathy” from Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Outside the overflowing Conservative synagogue, 750 placard-carrying students chanted “Am Yisrael Chai.”

In Toronto, more than 5,000 people lined up around the block to get into Beth Tzedec synagogue for a rally sponsored by B’nai Brith Canada, the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canadian Zionist Federation, the Toronto Jewish Congress, United Jewish Appeal and United Israel Appeal.

Among the speakers were Consul General Benjamin Abi Leah, Canadian Immigration Minister Barbara McDougall, who also brought greetings from Prime Minister Mulroney, and Les Scheininger, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

In Indianapolis, more than 800 people “from every element of the Jewish community” turned out for a rally at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council, according to Dr. Marcia Goldstone, its executive director.

A special prayer, written by the congregation’s rabbi, was read by a woman whose husband is fighting in Saudi Arabia and an Indianapolis man whose children live in Jerusalem.

‘AMAZING SHOW OF UNITY’

In Newton, Mass., some 2,000 people gathered in the Jewish Community Center for a rally organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston.

The mood, said JCRC Executive Director Nancy Kaufman, “was really one of ‘We are one.’ It was an amazing show of unity on the part of the Jewish community.”

In Los Angeles, rallies were held at various locations throughout the afternoon and evening. Some 2,000 supporters of Israel, including members of youth groups, gathered outside the Israeli Consulate and listened to remarks by Consul General Ran Ronen.

Another rally was held in the afternoon in front of the Jewish Community Building. The Jewish Federation Council sponsored two “solidarity prayer gatherings” at congregations in West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. A third synagogue planned an evening rally.

(Contributing to this report were JTA correspondents Bram D. Eisenthal in Montreal, Cassandra Freeman in Toronto and Tom Tugend in Los Angeles.)

NEXT STORY