Photo by Robert F. Kusel
Some 2,000 Chicagoans
stood united with Israel Monday morning at a rally supporting the Jewish
homeland’s right to defend itself from Hamas terror attacks.
Sponsored by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan
Chicago, the event brought together Jewish leaders, elected officials and
Chicago’s Jewish community outside the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St., to
join in words of support, calls for action and prayers for peace. (View photos from the rally)
“We share Israel’s desire for peace, support her right to defend
herself and pledge our abiding solidarity now and forever,” said JUF/Federation
President Steven B. Nasatir. (Watch
Young and old, Israeli and American, people
representing every corner of Chicago’s Jewish community crowded the plaza
waving flags, holdings signs and vocalizing their support, including singing
“Am Yisrael Chai” and other Jewish and Israeli anthems.
Recently returned from chairing a national solidarity mission to
Israel, JUF Chairman of the Board David T. Brown began the rally by sharing
stories of his experience during the crisis, including encountering the family
of a fallen soldier and being among the thousands at his funeral. (Watch
“As your Chicago representative being there at
this time, I’m proud to say that I’m proud of the state of Israel, I’m proud of
the people of Israel, and I’m proud of our IDF soldiers who are defending the
state of Israel,” he said.
Sen. Mark Kirk
Brad Schneider then spoke, reiterating Israel’s right to self-defense and
voicing the need for a complete demilitarization of Hamas in Gaza.
“We should not have a cease-fire until Hamas is militarily defeated by
the IDF, our allies in Israel,” Kirk said. “The only way we can bring peace to
that area is to defeat those who bring terror to the Middle East.”
Both Kirk and Schneider assured the crowd of the U.S. government’s
support of Israel during this crisis and beyond.
here as one people to say in a strong, clear voice, the United States has no
better ally in the region, in fact no better ally in the world, than the
democratic, Jewish state of Israel,” Schneider said.
offering supportive words were Consul General of Israel to the Midwest Roey Gilad,
Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza and Rev. Roosevelt Watkins III of Bethlehem
Star Missionary Baptist Church on the South Side. Also present
were State Sen. Ira Silverstein, State Rep. Lou Lang, Alderman Debra
Silverstein, Canadian Consul Scott McCook, Pastor Chris Harris and Elder
Jeffrey Hodges. Those who could not attend offered comments from afar, such as
AFSCME Executive Director Henry Bayer.
“No nation can
tolerate wanton rocket attacks on its civilian population,” Bayer wrote ahead of
Monday’s rally. “Hamas’ relentless assaults on Israel have provoked a dangerous
and deadly conflict that has had tragic consequences for all involved. We
support Israel in its quest for peace and security”
Nasatir addressed these leaders as he described the Chicago Jewish
community’s commitment to Israel.
“Before you here today is
an inspired and committed community, one that proudly affirms we stand with
Israel,” he said.
Nasatir also urged those in attendance to
translate their solidarity into action. Among the many ways, he called for
individuals to stay informed and become educated ambassadors for Israel, reach
out to friends and family there to offer comfort, share their support with
elected officials and finally to travel to Israel. “Any time, any way, just get
there,” he said.
While Brown was in Israel, he saw
firsthand the impact that JUF has had on Israel through its long-standing
support as well as the recently launched Israel Emergency Campaign.
“The direct care for the elderly, for the disabled, for
the young people, the respite services, especially for the young …The impact
upon the community has been tremendous,” Brown said.
present at the rally say they felt supported and hopeful by the size and spirit
of the crowd.
"The world seems indifferent to Israel, but coming to this
rally makes me more confident in our people," said former IDF soldier Michal
Rabinowitch. "We will win, as we always have."
The rally concluded
with a reading of the names of the Israeli soldiers who have fallen since the
start of Operation Protective Edge, with prayers led by Cantor Stuart Simon of
Am Yisrael and Rabbi Ellen Dreyfus, Rabbi Emerita of B'nai Yehuda Beth
JUF’s Jewish Community Relations Council Chairman
Skip Schrayer emceed the rally.