Jewish Agency leaders deliver Shalit letters to Red Cross

It was an emotional scene at the American Red Cross yesterday as Jewish Agency for Israel lay leaders and community representatives delivered hundreds of letters and postcards written to captive Israeli solider Gilad Shalit.

The letters, authored by American Jews from across the country, are the product of a Jewish Agency led campaign which coordinated the efforts of nine communities.

Letters written to Gilad Shalit.  (Photo credit: Evelyn Hockstein/Jewish Agency for Israel)

The delegation met with Gail McGovern, CEO of the American Red Cross, and Mary Werntz, the head of delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Werntz expressed her thanks for the letters and promised to pass the correspondence along to Red Cross headquarters in Geneva.  She stressed that the Red Cross is in regular contact with the Shalit family and will not stop their efforts until Shalit is released.

She stressed that the ICRC regularly pursues talks with Hamas on the issue of Shalit "as much as several times a week, and this is not going to change."  She called the situation "highly emotional" and "extremely painful" for all parties involved.

McGovern and Werntz were also presented with copies of When the Shark and the Fish First Met, a children’s book based on a story written by an eleven year old Gilad Shalit.  The book tells the story of a shark and a fish who become friends and live in peace.

Rabbi John Linder, representing the Phoenix Jewish community, said that the plight of Gilad Shalit is extremely important to his congregation.  At Rosh Hashanah services this past weekend, there was "a postcard form on every seat in the congregation" and countless congregants wrote personal notes to Shalit before the holiday ended.

Linder said Jewish schools, synagogues, summer camps and community centers across the nation have acted similarly.  Other communities included Minneapolis, MN; Teaneck, NJ; Tucson, AZ; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Tulsa, OK; San Francisco, CA; and Miami, FL.

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