This past week has been one of activism and true spirit. I was overwhelmed by so many of you sharing your stories with me about your experiences at the “March for Israel” rally in Washington. From the plethora of videos sent to me by those that davened at sunrise in front of the White House to the sound of 300,000 Jews saying the Shema together, it was an inspirational day in the Nation’s capitol. It also struck me how much love and unity is in the air when Jews come together to demonstrate. All one has to do is watch the antisemitic demonstrations around the world to understand the difference.
I was honored to host my good friend and Jewish leader, David Magerman this past week at the Aish World Center. David was one of the first Jewish philanthropists to publicly announce that he was pulling his donations from the University of Pennsylvania because he no longer shares their values. David spoke to all of our EFG@Aish students as well as to the Aish Solidarity Mission. We traveled together to the Knesset to meet with former UN Ambassador and current MK Danny Danon to discuss and get a better sense of the conflict. We also met with the Chairman of the World Zionist Organization (WZO), Yaakov HaGoel. Chairman HaGoel was so impressed with David’s principled stance that he issued a worldwide public letter for Jewish philanthropists to cease donating to universities that were not keeping Jewish students safe.
Perhaps the highlight of the week was welcoming the Aish Solidarity Mission. Two buses of Aish partners from across North America traveled to Israel to show their support to our brothers and sisters here. In addition to briefings on the events of 10/7, the schedule is full of opportunities to roll up our sleeves and help out where we can. The first day, we prepped and packed 450 meals for soldiers at the front. We assisted the farmers and we spent time with displaced families who are living in hotels near Jerusalem.
Perhaps one of the most solemn places we visited was Machane Shura. We were addressed by Aviad Simhoni who is in charge of mortuary affairs for the army. The care and dignity afforded to the victims is moving beyond words. At this time there are 150 civilian bodies still unidentified. Immediately after, we entered the largest warehouse of Torah scrolls in the world where 1400 IDF Torahs are waiting to be repaired or buried. Led by Rabbi Sytner from the Aish Village Shul in Toronto, we began to dance as we do every year on Simchas Torah. It felt as if we were dancing for those who no longer could.
Perhaps that is the most poignant of messages. Our enemies slaughtered 1200 of our brothers and sisters on Simchas Torah. They sought to instill fear and panic among the Jews. Yet, every survivor, IDF soldier, and family member that we encountered showed strength and resilience. These victims will never be forgotten. Our kidnapped brethren will never be forsaken. 300,000 Jews traveled to Washington to tell the world that they stand shoulder to shoulder with the Jews of Israel. The spirit of the Jewish Nation can never be broken. Am Yisroel Chai!