Rallying the Israeli flag
Jewish groups host dozens of vigils, events across North America for Israel, bringing out thousands of supporters
Nearly every Jewish community on the continent has held an Israel solidarity event or is planning one
Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images
America stands with Israel: that’s the message unequivocally expressed by city leaders, government officials and tens of thousands of North American Jews at dozens of rallies and vigils across the continent in the wake of last week’s terror attacks carried out by Hamas in southern Israel.
At the Boston Common on Monday afternoon, thousands of Jews came together, waving banners and wrapping themselves in Israeli flags, for an emotion-laden event dubbed “Gathering in Solidarity With Israel Under Fire.” It was hosted by the Consulate General of Israel to New England as well as local chapters of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Israeli American Council and Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
“My heart is with those who lost their lives too early,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told the crowd. “With those who have lost loved ones, with those who have been wounded in body and spirit. I am here to grieve with you. I am here to stand in solidarity.”
“But standing in solidarity does not mean standing still,” she added. “Standing in solidarity means action, it means shouldering the obligations of a strong and faithful ally,” a sentiment others who spoke during the afternoon’s event mirrored as well, including Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.
Three-hundred miles away, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro addressed a crowd in Philadelphia of some 1,000 members of the Jewish community and Israel supporters on Monday, touching on his identity as a Jewish governor.
“Demonstrators across the commonwealth and the nation send a strong message that we stand against terror, and we stand with Israel,” Shapiro said at the event hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. “For each of us, Israel means something special. Recognize what Israel represents: freedom, democracy and peace. Those are values that we as Americans, and we as Pennsylvanians hold dear.”
In New York City, home to the largest population of Jews outside of Israel, thousands of New Yorkers of all backgrounds gathered at the U.N. Plaza on Tuesday night, where the parents of Omer, an IDF soldier being held hostage in Gaza, spoke. “We love you very much and know you are alive,” they said.
The “New York Stands with Israel” vigil was joined by Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams and other elected officials. It was hosted by UJA-Federation of New York, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Anti Defamation League -NY, American Jewish Committee-NY, the American Zionist Movement, the Association of Reform Zionists of America and Council of Jewish Émigré Community Organizations.
Hochul reiterated the Empire State’s support for Israel. “We will defeat antisemitism wherever it rears its ugly head. We will defeat evil right here in New York. Let’s win this, everyone,” she said.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan addressed the crowd, saying, “In Israel, we don’t flee the battle, we run towards it. We run towards it because we are a people of heroes,” Erdan said to an eruption of cheers from the crowd.
Dalia Handelman, a UJA-Federation development associate, told eJP that “powerful doesn’t even begin to describe the scene tonight at the UJA/JCRC rally in support of Israel.”
“We showed the world the strength of the Jewish people and will continue to do so until Israel is safe once again. My sincerest hope from tonight’s rally, aside from raising as much support as possible for aid to Israel, is that it shows our brothers and sisters in Israel we are here for them and will do everything in our power to fight for them,” Handelman continued. “No amount of terror will ever take away the soul, pride, and hope of the Jewish people and we will defend our homeland forever.”
Among other vigils and rallies slated to happen in New York on Wednesday include the American Jewish Committee’s demonstration alongside U.N. diplomats. Separately, Park East Synagogue will have a service titled “Community Unity in Support of Israel.”
Rabbi Arthur Schneier, who leads Park East Synagogue, said in a statement, “now more than ever we must come forward united on behalf of Israel.”
In Miami, an estimated 2,500 Israel supporters gathered at the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach on Tuesday where Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez were among the speakers.
Jessica Katz told the crowd in Miami that the attack on Israel was “an attack on America, on Western values and on democracy.”
Washington, D.C.-area synagogues including Washington Hebrew hosted a joint vigil Tuesday night at Adas Israel Congregation.
On the West Coast, hundreds of demonstrators lined Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, home to a sizable Israeli population, on Monday carrying signs and Israeli flags. Many of their relatives were among the hundreds of thousands of reservists called up by the Israel Defense Forces.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) led a Jewish community gathering on Sunday to support Israel at Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco.
Other U.S. elected officials who have spoken at pro-Israel events this week, organized through Jewish Federations of North America, include Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in New Haven, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) in Ann Arbor, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin in Richmond and Rep. Tom Kean Jr. (R-NJ) In Millburn.
Eighteen of the solidarity rallies nationwide were planned by the Israeli-American Council (IAC), including ones Monday and Tuesday in Austin, Texas; Boston; Houston, Los Angeles; Orlando, Fla; Portland, Ore; the San Francisco Bay Area; Seattle, Atlanta; Orange County, Calif; Philadelphia; San Diego and the state of New Jersey. Other rallies are being scheduled in Chicago; Colorado; New York City; Rochester, N.Y.; and South Florida.
IAC CEO Elan Carr, who is the former U.S. special envoy to combat antisemitism, said in a statement, “We stand arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in Israel in total solidarity and unwavering support. Like any sovereign country that has suffered such a brutal and inhuman attack, Israel has the inalienable right to defend itself fully, completely, and decisively and to eliminate the threats facing its citizens.”
At the same time that Jewish community members across the country gathered, pro-Palestinian rallies and counter-protests appeared in cites throughout the U.S. and around the world.
Notably in New York, one day after the Hamas attack, the Democratic Socialists of America hosted a rally on Sunday in Times Square, which the organization said was “in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to resist 75 years of occupation and apartheid.”
Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters carriedsigns demanding a “Free Palestine” while chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” as well as “Globalize the intifada,” and “Smash the settler Zionist state,” according to The Times of Israel. Images and videos from the rally show individuals brandishing swastika images and celebrating “the glorious victory of the resistance.”
Hochul condemned the event in a statement as “abhorrent and morally repugnant,” with multiple members of Congress doing the same, and calling out the DSA for setting up the event. A smaller gathering of pro-Israel supporters came out in counter protest, with multiple altercations reported between the two groups.
In Boston, a few hours after Monday’s gathering for Israel, the Palestinian Youth Movement held a rally and march for Palestine in Cambridge. Earlier in the day, Levin, the Northeastern student, told eJP that he and some of his friends would be traveling to the area to counter demonstrate in support of Israel, where they hoped to “educate the individuals there.” Other Israel supporters were also on-site, with tensions high on both sides.
One of the most widespread and widely criticized rally videos was from Australia, where a large group who had gathered for a pro-Palestinian march through Sydney were seen crowded around the Sydney Opera House chanting “gas the Jews” as they waved Palestinian flags. The country’s prime minister, Anthony Albanese, criticized the slurs, Reuters reported, and area police are investigating the incident.