JUF Chairman David T. Brown addresses hundreds gathered downtown
at the Thompson Center for a vigil for the kidnapped teens.
The mood at Chicago’s Thompson center downtown on Monday was solemn, as
over 500 Chicagoans gathered to show their support for the kidnapped Israeli
teens and their families and to pray for their safe return. The peaceful
vigil—organized by the Jewish United Fund and held at the James R. Thompson
Center—gave members of the community, saddened by the shocking abduction of the
three teens, an opportunity to join together in prayer and to show their
sympathy for the teens’ families. The JUF Lewis Summer Interns, most of whom
are only a few years older than the three kidnapped teens, helped organize the
Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped on Thursday,
June 12 by Palestinian terrorists near Gush Etzion. The three youths—Gilad
Shaar (16), Naftali Frenkel (16), and Eyal Yifrach (19)—were on their way home
from Mekor Chaim, a yeshiva high school in Kfar Etzion when they were
abducted. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Hamas of
kidnapping the teens and holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for the
kidnappings. Netanyahu has also called for the disbandment of the Palestinian
Authority’s unity government with Hamas, according to the JTA.
The Israeli military has exercised extensive resources in their
effort to locate the boys, while the boys’ families pray for their safe
return home. Among American Jews, the focus has been on supporting the
teens’ families, largely through prayer (JTA). A media campaign,
#BringBackOurBoys—inspired by the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls that was
sparked by the abduction of over 200 Nigerian girls by an Islamist
terrorist group—has gained momentum as Jews around the globe show their
solidarity with the boys and their families.
remarks at the vigil were delivered by David T. Brown, chairman of the
Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. Brown
expressed his and the Federation’s solidarity with Israel and cited the
kidnapping as an example of “the obstacles that remain to achieving the
peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians that we all seek.” He
also welcomed public officials in attendance—Julie Hamos, director of the
Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services; Ill. State Sen. Ira
Silverstein; Ill. Rep. Scott Drury; and Ald. Debra Silverstein.
of support for Israel, the teens and the vigil came from U.S. Senators Dick
Durbin and Mark Kirk, as well as Illinois Congressmen Rep. Cheri Bustos, Rep.
Rodney Davis, Rep. Bill Foster, Rep. Dan Lipinski, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep.
Brad Schneider, and Rep. Aaron Schock. On Wednesday, Rep. Schneider introduced a resolution calling for the immediate, unconditional release of the captured teens.
included Rabbi Yona Reiss, Av Beth Din (chief of rabbinic court) of
the Chicago Rabbinical Council; Presbyterian Reverend Robert Cathey,
Professor of Theology at the McCormick Seminary; Roey Gilad, Consul General
of Israel to the Midwest; and Endy Zemenides, executive director of the
Hellenic American Leadership Council.
In a letter
written by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and read at the vigil, the mayor condemned the
kidnapping and stated: “I see my children in the faces of these three
Israeli boys, and like any parent, my heart goes out to their families. No
child should have to live in fear that one day they may not return home
and I offer my full support to Israel and its search for these missing
Lewis Summer Interns read short biographies of
each of the kidnapped boys. The interns also shared their own sentiments
regarding the kidnapping of their Israeli peers. They asked the audience to
think of their own children, their own friends and siblings, and to imagine
if they were the families of Eyal, Naftali, and Gilad. “I came as a mother.
I came as a Jew. I came as an Israeli. I came to support the families and
to let the kids know that they have not been forgotten,” attendee Hadassa
Dekalo said emotionally.
Many members of the Israeli
community also attended the vigil, including a group of Israeli Defense
Forces veterans who had been wounded in combat. Ishay Halen, a former
soldier, said, “I came to support our brothers here. We are a big family in
Israel, [although not literally]. Everyone around the world, every Jewish
person, every Israeli person, we all support each other.” He also voiced
Israel’s desire for peace and considered the vigil a sign of this desire to
the Palestinians. “We don’t want a war…we just want to speak to [the
Palestinians],” he said.
The families of Gilad, Eyal, and
Naftali ask that you continue to pray for the safe return of their sons. To
further show your support, you can like the #BringOurBoysBack
Facebook page or sign a national letter
addressed to the families of the teens at www.bringbackourboys.net.