Community Gathers, Mourns, At Israel Solidarity Gathering

Roughly 1,500 Jews and community allies gathered at Adath Israel Congregation on Tuesday evening to mourn the over 1,000 Israelis murdered by Hamas, the Iran-backed terrorist organization that controls Gaza, and show solidarity with Israel. Hundreds more joined by live stream.

Speakers included Mayor Aftab Pureval, Jewish Federation CEO Danielle Minson, State Rep. Sara Carruthers, U.S. Rep. Greg Landsman, and Jewish clergy and leaders. All condemned Hamas, which invaded Israeli communities near the Gaza border on Saturday to murder people in their homes and take over 150 hostages.

“The entire community of Cincinnati stands with you and stands with Israel in this moment of crisis,” said Pureval. “It is inexcusable and an outrage – there is no justification for murder, kidnapping, or terror. We as a city condemn the attacks waged by Hamas.” 

Rep. Landsman addressed the crowd via a pre-recorded video message. “We will prevail together and fight back together, as we will prevail together in peace and justice,” he said. 

Landsman has released several statements about the Israel-Hamas War, including a continued call for U.S. support for Israel. “This may be a long war, and the United States must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel every step of the way,” he said earlier Tuesday in a statement.

Landsman also emphasized that the coming days will be difficult, and that it is possible to support Israel while also mourning all innocent people killed in the war.

The U.S. “will be there to help [Israel] end this war as quickly and successfully as possible,” his statement said. “The images and stories coming out of Gaza in the days and weeks ahead will be horrific. War is horrific. Israel must defend herself, and yet we can all mourn the awfulness of war.”

The solidarity event was sponsored by roughly 30 Jewish organizations, including local synagogues across denominations, the Mayerson Jewish Community Center, Ish, the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, and others.

Jewish prayer was given during the program, including the prayer for the State of Israel, the Acheinu, a prayer for the solidarity of the Jewish people, and Oshe Shalom, a prayer for peace. The solidarity event hosted a cross-section of the Cincinnati Jewish community, with Jews of all denominations attending.

Zahava Rendler, an educator at Rockwern Academy, Holocaust survivor, and dual American-Israeli citizen addressed the crowd. 

“Over the past four days, I find myself reliving my past,” Rendler said. ”The Nazis tried to take away my identity but Israel restored it – I was only five when I arrived there, and I knew I did not need to be afraid. This is the country that wanted me and held my hand, that gave me pride in being a Jew.”

Speakers referenced the Israelis living in Cincinnati who have been terrified for their families from a distance, and fearing for missing family and friends. Speakers emphasized that the rest of Cincinnati Jewry supports the Israelis in our midst.

“To all the Israelis here in the community,” said Rendler, “I want you to know we are here with you, your sorrow is our sorrow, your fear is our fear, and your hope is our hope.”

Illana Goldberg, who grew up in Indian Hill and now lives in Israel, addressed the crowd via video message. She recounted the stress and fear that has become a part of her day-to-day life and the friends and family who are now in harm’s way – including a friend who was taken hostage by Hamas. 

“We aren’t just Israelis and Jews, we are human beings,” Goldberg said. She called to fully support Israel’s response to Hamas, and to understand the no-other-options reality that Israelis find themselves in. 

“Whatever we need to do to bring back our families is what we are going to do,” Goldberg said.

Bobby Fisher, a volunteer with the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, told the rally that while many feel helpless about the situation in Israel, there is much they can do to help. Israel is in need of donations for military and humanitarian supplies, he said, and donating to the Federation’s Swords of Iron fund will help address that need. 

“There is a layer of profound dread that hangs over our daily routine,” Fisher said. “The enormity of this tragedy makes us feel enraged and helpless.”

The Federation’s fundraising campaign had received a massive outpouring of support, including a record half-million dollar donation.

“I am humbled and proud to say this campaign received a remarkable and generous gift of $500,000 from Charles Shor,” said Fisher. “We ask you to participate in the Swords of Iron fund, [though of course] there is no amount of money that can heal the heartbreak the people of Israel have experienced, are experiencing, and will experience.” 

Fisher also took a moment to thank President Biden for expressing his support for Israel and the Jewish people in his address earlier today. 

Antisemitic incidents and attacks tend to increase during violent situations in Israel, and experts have warned that, given the severity of the Hamas attack and Israel’s response, there may be acute examples of that in the coming days.

Despite the somberness of the rally, there was also a feeling of hope and determination. Much of that was due to Zahava Rendler.

“In this darkness, there is hope to be found, we are unified in our vision to be a diverse Jewish community for future generations,” Rendler said “There is hope because we made it through dark times before and we will again.”

She added: “My father would say, ‘Tomorrow, my [sweet child] you will see the sun will shine’…My belief is tomorrow the sun will shine on my home, our home, the great state of Israel.”

If you want to help Israel, see our Cincy Jewfolk guide to trusted organizations and fundraisers you can donate to.