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March for Israel

Photos from Associated Press

Nearly 300,000 people stood on the National Mall in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, November 14, to show unified support for Israel. They marched to combat antisemitism, advocate for the release of hostages, and tell the world that they refuse to be silenced. The stage was filled with politicians, families of hostages, musicians, and an unwavering sense of unity.

Among the crowd were Rabbi Bitran, Executive Director Debbie Zeger, and other congregants of Temple Beth El. It was an 8 hour bus ride for the 3pm rally, a bus ride that only added to the anticipation of the event. Of the delegation from Rochester, about 20% were from Temple Beth El.

The atmosphere was empowering, according to Debbie Zeger.

“I felt privileged and proud to be able to be there. There was an immense sense of pride and I felt like I was representing our community. It was a ‘we are here for the same reason’ type of crowd.”

A majority of the attendees were Jewish, though there was representation from other religious groups. Rabbi notes that there was a sense of commitment to Judaism, saying that “there was a huge portion that were the drivers of Judaism, perhaps, in America.”

Despite so many different opinions within the greater Jewish community, there were representatives from every demographic in the crowd. It was “all across the spectrum, from reform to ultra-orthodox,” said Zeger, “this one speaker summed it up for me, she said “ten Jews have ten thousand opinions but today we are all together united for the same reason.”

It was a highly secure event, reflecting the tense state of affairs within the American Jewish population.

Reports of antisemitic incidents have skyrocketed since the Hamas attack on October 7. According to the Anti-Defamation League, there has been a 388% increase of harassment, vandalism, and assault compared to the same period last year.

In Paris, France, there was a similar march on Sunday, November 12, that drew more than 100,000 people. Its explicit purpose was to combat antisemitism.

Rabbi Bitran talked about delegates from Detroit that were denied transport to the march by their drivers. Our congregants had learned at the rally that “delegation had Muslim drivers that didn’t want to drive them… that was to experience antisemitism, to experience discrimination before you’re going to a gathering to fight discrimination!” The 900 people were left stranded at the Dulles Airport. It only added to the cause. Rabbi said that they went to say that “we stand for goodness and that we stand for law, and that we stand for the protection of human beings.”

Members of Debbie Zeger’s group were harassed by strangers shouting “Heil Hitler” on their way to a metro station.

In this time of hardship, the only option we have is to come together in unity and love. Refuse to be silenced. View our website for more ways to get involved and engaged.

Our Takeaways

Rabbi Bitran: The quick response of the Jewish community to stand for what is morally correct and what we consider to be a moral imperative: the existence of the state of Israel. That is the moral imperative that we are responding to. In a world where there’s moral relativism, we have been driven to that moral absolute, whether we like it or not.

Debbie Zeger: It’s interesting, we were talking today about antisemitism and how it brings the Jews back together. It’s kind of like a diamond, when you apply pressure, you bring out the best. There is good to be found in these hardships.
I felt really proud to be Jewish. I felt really proud of the way the Jewish community had gotten together. We are not spewing hate, we are reaching out to each other with love and support, and we are all one people.