Despite the cold, about 300 people bundled up and came out Monday night to support an “I Stand for Solidarity” rally organized by the Jewish Federation of Rockland County.
Members of the Jewish Federation, rabbis from all around Rockland, community leaders and elected officials addressed the crowd in front of the Rockland County Courthouse.
They spoke on the escalating violence between Israel and Gaza. The federation issued a statement supporting Israel last week. Watch the videos for a brief summary of some of the speeches.
Rayna Boyarsky, 22 of New City, grew up a few blocks away from the county courthouse and after she graduated from RCC in May 2010, Boyarsky has been stationed in Israel for the last two years as part of the Oketz Combat Canine Unit.
"The fact that we all stand outside right now with no worries of an incoming rocket or a warning siren is no surprise. We don’t have to move this rally to a building closer to a bomb shelter, just in case. Because we’re in New City,” said Boyarsky. "Unfortunately, it seems as though these feelings of safety and independence can only exist here, in America. My home is now located in southern Israel situated 20 kilometers from Gaza. My past two years have been filled with an unfathomable amount of warning sirens, that left my friends and I 45 seconds to run to the nearest bomb shelter before the explosion. Sometimes, if we were caught unprepared, I would have to run barefoot. I spent countless nights waiting to hear the rockets hit in the nearby distance."
Around 7 p.m. the New City fire department alarms went off and Boyarsky jumped a bit, adding, "I have serious PTSD (Post tramatic stress disorder)." Although she finished her two years of service, she's heading back to Israel in five weeks.
"I know that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is a peaceful army, whose only goal is to protect its civilians and their freedoms, not to destroy anyone else’s," she added. "I think it’s really important to support something that I really believe in. I’ve been in the army. I know what they do. We’ve been taught to don’t shoot, to ask. (My unit) it detects bombs and has a tracking system ... if someone crosses the border."
Boyarsky considers Israel her home away from home and has plans to live there and move into an apartment when she goes back.
"At first I wasn’t planning on moving to Israel forever. I was planning on just doing my service (of two years)," she said. "I love America and am proud to be an American. I’m not an ex-patriot at all. My dad was in the American army. I just love Israel."
She got her inspiration to go help Israel back in high school.
"I went to (Solomon) Schechter in Westchester. They took us, in our senior year, to Poland. We went to the (concentration) camps and walked through gas chambers. I was thinking, ‘I have the capability to be part of (something bigger).’"
Joan Kaye of New City was among the hundreds who attended the rally. Kaye, who has family living in Israel, said Israel has the right to defend itself and she supported its actions.
Also, on Monday, Legislator Ilan Schoenberger announced he will introduce a resolution expressing support for Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks by Hamas and Palestinian groups.
Schoenberger’s resolution states Hamas has launched more than 12,000 rockets and mortars against Israeli population centers since 2001, and has launched more than 6,000 such rockets and mortars since Israel withdrew its civilian population and its military from Gaza in 2005. Since the beginning of the latest increase in rocket attacks on November 14, Hamas has launched over 1100 rockets aimed at Israeli towns and cities, killing three civilians, wounding scores, and causing significant damage to buildings and property.
“Hamas has increased the range and payload of its rockets, reportedly with support from Iran and others, putting hundreds of thousands of Israelis in major population centers in central Israel, such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, in danger of rocket attacks from Gaza,” said Schoenberger. “This resolution calls upon our State and Federal officials to condemn Hamas and others for their violent actions against Israel and to reaffirm Israel’s right to exist. The burden of responsibility for this continued warfare rests with Hamas. Israel has every right to defend itself against the prolonged terroristic actions of Hamas and other militant groups.”
Among those that spoke included:
- Diane Sloyer, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Rockland County
- Nat Wasserstein, President of the Jewish Federation of Rockland County
- Rabbi Brian Leiken of Temple Beth Sholom led everyone in the Star Spangled Banner and Hatikva
- Steve Gold, past President of the JCC and Chair of the Minute of Silence campaign
- Rabbi David Berkman of the New City Jewish Center and Rabbi Brian Beal of Temple Beth Torah to led everyone in the prayer for the State of Israel
- Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham of the Congregation Sons of Israel Nyack and Rabbi Paul Kurland of the Nanuet Hebrew Center lead a prayer for the Israel Defense Forces.
- Congressman Eliot Engel
- Rabbi Daniel Pernick of Beth Am Temple and a federation board member
- Rabbi Craig Scheff of Orangetown Jewish Center, who just returned from Israel.
- Rayna Boyarsky
- Andrea Weinberger, federation board member
- Rabbi Ami Hirsch, Assistant Director Camp Ramah with the prayer for peace
- Rabbi Leiken and Cantor Kanareck-oseh shalom and am Yisrael
Sloyer recognized Bob Silverman, Campaign Chair as well as Bobbie Goldstein, Shira Lewis, Carol Blau, Andrea Weinberger and Steve Gold who have stepped up to chair the emergency campaign for Israel, and she also recognized Jewish Community leaders that attended—Maria Dowling, CEO and Lillian Adler, President-Rockland Jewish family Service, David Kirsctel CEO and Pam Greenspan, President-JCC, Andy Alter, Executive Director, Israel Bonds, Brenda Lender, President of the Rockland Jewish Academy, Dov Oliver, Director Hillel Rockland
Other elected officials that were present included: Clarkstown Councilwomen Shirley Lasker and Stephanie Hausner, Senator David Carlucci, Clarkstown Town Justice Scott Ugell, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, Suffern Mayor Dagan LaCorte, Ramapo Councilman Dan Friedman, Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack, Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, Legislators Harriet Cornell, Aron Wieder, Doug Jobson, Ilan Schoenberger, Alden Wolfe, Toney Earl, and Phil Soskin and Ed Day