By Harriet P. Gross
Déjà vu all over again — the recent Solidarity Rally for Israel that drew a crowd, probably numbering 1,000, to Anshai Torah in Plano, where Rabbi Stefan Weinberg quipped about this being a test of congregational parking facilities in advance of the High Holy Days before giving an impassioned, accurate, effective assessment of what’s going on today, what all Jews are facing.
”I wish we didn’t have to be here,” he said. “But Israel needs us. And we need each other.”
Greater Dallas’ Jewish Federation and its Jewish Community Relations Council sponsored this massive event, along with the local Rabbinic Association and the support and participation of many cooperating organizations. For those of us old enough to have attended them, its size evoked those unforgettable rallies that took place everywhere Jews could gather at the times of the Six-Day War (June 5–10, 1967) and the Yom Kippur War (Oct. 6, 1973). But this time, nobody asked for money. Spirit was being sought here.
JCRC Chair Stephanie Hirsh set the tone in her introduction, drawing applause when she stressed that we American Jews never waver in our support of what Israel is, even though we may not agree with everything it does. Chair-elect Jeff Rasansky continued in the same vein: We were uniting in a pledge for Israel’s security and survival.
Nobody has to be Jewish to support Israel. Alice Murray, president and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, reminded us that more than 90 percent of the thousands who come to learn are not Jews. “We are teaching for all humanity,” she said. “‘Upstanders’ stand up for the state of Israel.” Ana Cristina Reymundo of American Airlines said “When we go outside, the sun shines on all of us, so we must stand up for the rights of all people.”
Community Rabbi Howard Wolk led in prayer; Cantor Itzhak Zhrebker led us in song. Dr. Zev Shulkin led us forward with powerful words on what he terms “anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism”; he told of recent pro-Hamas rallies not only on college campuses across the country, but in downtown Dallas itself. Members of the rabid Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas will be coming to our city on July 9 to picket our Jewish institutions. “Do not dismiss these protests as extreme,” he warned us. “We are asking for help. We cannot win this war alone!”
The JCRC provided comprehensive handouts on how all of us can make meaningful contact with the media and our elected officials in high places. I’ve done so already. Have you? Will you? Please do! Let me know if you need the how-to information; I’ll be happy to send it on to you.
It was wonderful to look over that sea of attendees and see men and women; children of all ages; people in wheelchairs, canes and walkers; kippot and bare male heads together; women modestly hatted next to those wearing form-hugging jeans. At the door: Susie Avnery, chair of JCRC’s Israel/International Commission, handed out Israeli flags that were waved jauntily throughout. How could you miss Diane Benjamin, with her cowboy hat and huge, eye-catching sign proclaiming the special solidarity of Texas with Israel? Also spotted in the crowd: present and past Federation executives Gary Weinstein and Moe Stein; City Councilwoman Ann Margolin; Posy McMillen, a devout Christian and a devout supporter of Israel, who came from Fort Worth to add her welcome presence. The day’s message was loud and clear: We love Israel, and pledge our allegiance to it — as we did when we stood for both the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah.”
The day before this rally, I was in Plano for the North Texas Komen Race for the Cure. As if to affirm that life and life-giving efforts go on in Israel without a break, despite flotillas and fanatics, I’ve received word that the first such Israeli race is scheduled for Jerusalem on Oct. 28 of this year. It will be held just outside the Old City walls, culminating a full week of awareness-raising about the world’s breast cancer crisis.
Actually, Komen for the Cure has been active in Israel since 1994, already contributing $2 million toward vital research. Now, people from everywhere, of all nations, cultures and faiths, are being invited to race in this new venue. Wouldn’t 2010 be a good year, and a special time, to show double solidarity — by racing to, and in, Israel?