The events unfolding in Israel are geographically far from Maryland, but Jewish Baltimore showed its solidarity and support for the Jewish state through prayer, gatherings and messages sent directly to the soldiers taking part in Israel’s ground offensive in the Gaza Strip this past week.
National, state and local politicians joined with religious leaders, community members and an Israeli embassy representative Monday, July 21, at a gathering of solidarity at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC. The event, which was hosted by the Baltimore Jewish Council and co-sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, was organized to create an opportunity for the Baltimore community to demonstrate its support for the State of Israel and the country’s right to defend itself.
“When your home is under attack you have to defend it,” BJC President Lainy LeBow-Sachs said to the packed auditorium.
Oren Marmorstein, counselor for public affairs and national coordinator of academic affairs at the Israeli Embassy, used the opportunity to thank the Baltimoreans in attendance for their support of Israel.
“Every person in Israel is aware of this support,” he said. He described to the community members gathered his own experiences with hearing warning sirens and having to take cover with his wife and young daughter, and said much of what is portrayed of the conflict in the media is incomplete or inaccurate. It is hard, he added, to describe to people what life is really like in the Jewish state.
“This is not happening only one night,” he said of the sirens. “It’s happening every single night. This is something that is happening every day.”
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, who has been a vocal supporter of Israel during his tenure in office, also spoke at the rally, thanking the people who came to show their support and asserting Israel’s right to defend its citizens. He was followed by Amian Kelemer, whose daughter recently completed her service in the Israel Defense Forces. Kelemer talked about her experience as a “soldier mom,” fearing for her oldest daughter every day.
Meanwhile, another crowd gathered at Light and Pratt streets from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to protest racism and war, focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the situation along the Mexican border and the city’s newly stricter youth curfew.
“The racist apartheid settler state of Israel is once again attacking the people of Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank,” read a release promoting the rally. “The pretext this time was the death of three Israeli teenagers, but the results are all too familiar,” it added, pointing to the number of Palestinian casualties.
Rabbi Moshe Hauer of Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation, who spoke at the Gordon Center event, has put a call out to Jewish camp directors asking that campers design small notes or cards that will be included in care packages for soldiers. He extended his request to anybody in the community who would like to create and send a note of solidarity to Israeli troops.
Hauer will be traveling to Israel and plans to deliver the cards himself.
Agudath Israel of America is asking that all Jews pray for the safety of the Israeli soldiers and the citizenry of Israel, and “to undertake meaningful acts of kindness, charity, Torah study and special observances to help merit divine protection of our brothers and sisters in [Israel], on the front lines and everywhere else,” a statement read.
The Shmira Project, an organization that enables people to “adopt” one or more soldiers by doing a specific mitzvah in their honor and praying for their protection, was recently reestablished. Shmira means “guarding” or “protecting” in Hebrew.
“Any mitzvah that you do on behalf of a soldier truly makes a difference, to the soldier and to Jewish unity,” states the Center for Jewish Education’s website. “Write your soldier’s name out and post it where you’ll see it … near the Shabbat candles, on the refrigerator, in your car, in your phone. Then, when you are going to do something positive in the world, stop and think of your soldier and include him or her in your mitzvah.” For more information about the Shmira Project, go to shmiraproject.com or text 240-393-4836.
Photo by David Stuck