It is difficult to find the words to describe my feelings this Shabbat. Words feel inadequate. Like many of you, when I scroll through my Facebook feed, I am horrified and heartbroken by the stories of friends who have experienced the devastating loss of family members and friends murdered by Hamas.
A friend texted that she had lost her brother and brother-in-law on the same day. Devastated, I texted back, “heartbreaking.”
“Heart but not spirit. We will prevail. Rise up and shine back, to honor their memories, and to be worthy of their sacrifice,” she replied.
In the midst of my own sadness, her words - and her resilient spirit - provided a moment of astonishing light and beauty. Her story echoes so many others from our OC community, who have Israeli family and friends in harm’s way. In witnessing their resilience, we gain strength to respond even as we suffer with them.
That resilient spirit was manifest this past Tuesday at our Community Gathering, where some 1,500 community members expressed unwavering solidarity with Israel. We are grateful to Israel Consul General Bachar for his remarks, which provided a candid assessment and valuable insight on the tragic events. The diversity of our community and wide-ranging support for Israel was visible in those attending as well as our partnering organization presenters: ADL, Beth Jacob Congregation, Chabad of Irvine, Congregation B’nai Israel, Congregation B’nai Tzedek, Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot, Israeli American Council, Merage JCC, Orange County Board of Rabbis, Rabbinical Council of Orange County, Temple Bat Yahm, Temple Beth El, Temple Beth Sholom, Temple Beth Tikvah, and TVT Community Day School. We share special thanks with Rabbi Sarah DePaolo, Chair of the OC Board of Rabbis, Rabbi David Eliezrie, President of the Rabbinical Council of OC, and Scott Braswell, CEO of the Merage JCC, for their support in shaping and hosting the event. We thank the many elected officials who attended, and express gratitude to Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris for her timely remarks, and to US Representative Katie Porter and US Senator Alex Padilla for their recorded remarks (both were in Washington DC to vote on aid to Israel). We were honored to hear from the parents of an IDF Lone Soldier from Orange County, whose story exemplifies the courage and resilience of the Jewish spirit.
We have mobilized a philanthropic response. At this writing, over 530 individuals have contributed to our Israel Emergency Campaign, and we will be able to provide over $500,000 to support:
- Basic Needs: food, financial assistance, and more for affected individuals
- Evacuation, Housing, Respite, and Support for Frontline Communities
- Fund for Victims of Terror (Jewish Agency for Israel): cash grants, trauma care,
- Trauma Relief and Psychosocial Care: hotlines, aid to first responders, Lone Soldiers, and more
- Emergency Medical Services and Healthcare: supplies and equipment for health centers
- Targeted Assistance for Special Populations: the elderly, young children, people with disabilities, caregivers, and marginalized populations
Israel needs our support. Please give generously to the Israel Emergency Campaign.
As I shared in my remarks at Tuesday’s gathering, “we must not waiver in our commitment to speak up, speak the truth, and show our commitment to Zionism. You being here tonight is speaking up. I hear you. Our community hears you. And as reflected in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, ‘May your voice be heard all over the world and rally those who will stand by us in the great struggle for the fulfillment of the dream of generations, Israel.’”
Am Yisrael Chai.
Erik Ludwig, PhD
President & CEO