By Rachel Gross Weinstein
The mood was somber and the message was powerful at a community vigil June 23. Nearly 600 people of all ages gathered to pray for the safe return of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped by Hamas June 12.
Gilad Shaar, 16, Eyal Yifrach, 19, and U.S. citizen Naftali Frenkel, 16, were abducted on their way home from school. They were last seen trying to get rides from their Yeshiva high school in a bloc of settlements located South of Jerusalem. A search has been underway to find them ever since.
The vigil was organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, agencies and synagogues. Federation Board Chair Cindy Sweet Moskowitz said it is our duty as Jews to unite and show support for these teenagers and their families.
“Tonight we gather to pray, to conquer and to act in a situation of great uncertainty involving the lives of three teenage boys,” she said. “As the mother of three, all in or just out of their teenager years and one just back from a year in Israel, I cannot begin to fathom what the parents of the teens are experiencing. We join together to show support for these three teens and their families, for our homeland and learn how we can act to support these three boys and how their lives are impacted. We are stronger together.”
During the evening, Raquel Gershon led the crowd in the national anthem and Hatikvah, while Kol Rina, the Congregation Anshai Torah men’s choir, sang “Akheinu” and “Bring Back Our Boys.” Rabbi Debra Robbins of Temple Emanu-El and Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom each shared thoughts as well, and led the reading of the Prayer for the Captives and Psalms 130, respectively.
In his remarks, Rabbi Howard Wolk, president of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Dallas, said each of us has the power to do something more to help bring the boys home, whether that be additional prayer, reading psalms, lighting Shabbat candles or doing mitzvot.
“Since the kidnapping, all of Israel has been paralyzed, worried and deeply pained,” he said. “The kidnapping has underscored and strengthened the feeling of solidarity among Jews worldwide and this story has become a national source of agony. The experts, the IDF and the Israel security forces, they are doing their nonstop, painstaking work of searching for our precious teenagers, but what can we do? Resolve to do more as a Jew than you normally would.”
Guests at the vigil also had the opportunity to take their photo with a sign that read “#Bring Back Our Boys” and then post it on their social media pages. This is one of the steps that can be taken to show support locally.
Something like this is personal for everyone, according to Maya Kadosh, the deputy counsel general of Israel based in Houston. She flew in Dallas for the evening and highlighted the importance of this situation.
She said there are so many ways to show solidarity and the outpouring of support from people around the world has been amazing.
“This is not only about the teens, but being able to defend our country and about kids being able to sleep peacefully at night,” Kadosh said. “It’s about our brothers and sisters. It’s about sending my kids to school and making sure they are coming home. Tonight is about all of us. Not many people outside the Jewish world can understand, but everyone here knows this is our duty and obligation. No matter if you are in Israel or overseas, no matter if you know them or not, we are here to speak for them, and to call for their safe return. Don’t let terror win and show the world that kids in Israel can go to school in peace.”
Here are some ways to help locally:
Sign a letter of unity to the families of the teens, at bringbackourboys.net.
Like and share Bring Back Our Boys on Facebook; tweet #BringBackOurBoys and #EyalGiladNaftali.
Share a photo of with a #BringBackOurBoys sign.
Write and Op-Ed piece or letter to the mainstream media.
Call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111, on behalf of Naftali Frenkel, a U.S. citizen, explaining that they boys were kidnapped and for the White House to take action.
Keep informed on the situation, then educate friends and family, by visiting the following pages: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Embassy of Israel to the U.S. and the IDF Facebook page.