TJP Staff Report
March For Israel. March To Free Hostages. March against Antisemitism. These represented the clarion calls the Jewish Federations of North America and Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations disseminated exactly a week before the historic Nov. 14 gathering in Washington D.C. The American Jewish community and other supporters of Israel responded massively. Among the 290,000-plus assembled, documented as the largest in U.S. history, were more than 250 Jews from North Texas as well as at least 700 members of the gentile community.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas served as a convener for the North Texas Jewish community who attended which included formal contingents from Congregations Anshai Torah, Shaare Tefilla and Shearith Israel as well as Temple Emanu-El. Each represented a stream of Judaism: Conservative, Orthodox and Reform Judaism, a microcosm of the broad spectrum of support evident on the Washington Mall. The Dallas chapter of NCSY chaperoned a group of 24 high school students.
“This is a generational moment for American Jewry, and therefore, it is within the mission of the Federation to create the infrastructure so people can participate in a meaningful way,” said Igor Alterman, Dallas Federation president and CEO. The Federation, which is a part of Jewish Federations of North America, helped attendees from the Dallas area secure wristbands and coordinated meeting areas for them among the throng of people.
Many folks from Dallas began their day on the earliest flights out of town. Having a minyan present, some davened Shacharit together at their Southwest gate before boarding their flight at Love Field. Others said morning prayers in front of the White House.
As they entered the National Mall, they were enveloped by a sea of blue and white and Israel flags and a palpable sense of Jewish pride.
“I have never felt prouder to be a Jew,” said Congregation Anshai Torah Rabbi Michael Kushnick.We live at a time when there is a Jewish homeland in our ancestral home, and we are blessed to live in the United States of America. Today those two realities came together,” Dallas Federation Board Chair Dot Haymann echoed the sentiment. “I was blown away by the 290,000 people on the Mall. Everybody who was there, I was proud to be Jewish. Every sector of the Jewish Community was represented.”
Many in the Dallas delegation did their part to show their pride by donning “Dallas stands with Israel” sweatshirts.
Dallasite Tammy Diamond, who was born in Israel, said that a plan to make a few “Dallas Stands With Israel” sweatshirts for about 15 friends morphed into making 130 for Dallas attendees. There has been so much interest, that Diamond decided to continue to make the sweatshirts and donate all proceeds to help IDF soldiers who are wounded or in need.
Diamond said that her family in Israel was touched by the outpouring of support demonstrated by the march.
“They told me, ‘You have no idea what this did for us. It gave us strength, and it gave us hope to see that kind of support.’”
The hostages were top of mind
Thirty speakers addressed the crowd, including actors, musical performers, U.S. politicians, Israeli political leaders and members of other faith communities. Some of the most powerful remarks came from the parents of the more than 230 hostages being held in Gaza by Hamas.
Americans Jon Polin and Rachel Goldberg’s son Hersh Goldberg-Polin is among those who were kidnapped from the Supernova Music Festival Oct. 7.
“We hostage families have lived the last 39 days in slow-motion torment,” Goldberg said at Tuesday’s rally. “We all have third-degree burns on our souls.”
Goldberg led a chant of “Bring them home now,” and the crowd erupted in unison.
“There were American flags and Israeli flags, and pain for hostages of all religions (yes, Christians and Muslims and even Buddhist and Hindu people are being held hostage, too) and nationalities,” said Rabbi Michael Lewis, who led a group of 20 from Temple Emanu-El.
“In a world of toxic divisiveness fueled by social media algorithms, today was an answer to some of the pain and struggles of the past month.”
Speakers on both sides of the political aisle were clear in their solidarity when it came to their unwavering support for Israel. As they ended their remarks, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) grasped hands and chanted over and over, “We stand with Israel.”
That solidarity wasn’t lost on those in attendance.
“To be with tens of tens of thousands of Am Yisroel supporting our homeland. It didn’t matter if you were a Democrat or a Republican, right or left, religious or secular. We were all united as one family in showing the world our love for Israel,” said Janice Schwartz.
Why they went
Any of the three stated goals of the march was enough to motivate people to make the journey, for some the reasons were multi-layered.
Kim Zoller is an AJC Dallas board member and serves along with AJC Dallas Executive Director Joel Schwitzer on AJC’s task force to implement the U.S. national strategy to counter antisemitism. But perhaps more importantly, she is the mother of two lone soldier sons, reservists who were called up Oct. 7.
If I don’t speak up, who will? If not now, when? This is not the time to say, ‘someone else will step up.’ That someone is you. That someone is me,” she said.
For Arona Ackermann, who is Israeli born, being at the march with her husband Rob was an important expression of her love and passion for the countries she loves. Their son Aryeh is taking a gap-year to study in Israel.
“I know Aryeh’s presence there establishes our family’s stance in Israel as Hineni! [Here I am],” Ackermann said. “We here in America have been able to be the voice of our people, providing insight and an example [of] how, even when outnumbered, we are powerful and critical for Israel.”
What they took away
All five members of Shearith Israel’s clergy led a group of 40-plus members. Rabbi Ari Sunshine, a D.C.-area native, shared the experience with his father, Bob, and his son, Jonah. He said he took away a message of hope from the experience. “We are a people who never lose hope that tomorrow has the potential of being a better day, and each of us have the potential of contributing to that reality, for the Jewish people, for the state of Israel, and for the world,” Sunshine said.
For Anna Eisen, the day’s experience reminded her that there are good people in the world who will stand with Jews and with Israel. “Throughout my life, anytime there’s been this kind of redemptive experience, it is a reminder of what’s possible, that we don’t have to be alone … That’s where my hope lies,” she said.
Dan Prescott said for him, the day was one of mixed emotions: pride, enthusiasm, sadness and distress. He felt “pride in our people and the resiliency; enthusiasm generated by the crowd and particularly the youth in attendance; but sadness that this had to happen and distress and concern over the fate of the hostages.”
Noah Simon, a Plano West senior, joined the march with Dallas NCSY. “The day’s positive messages from political leaders and the inspiring sight of Jewish diversity left me inspired to do more to bring our hostages home,” said Noah Simon, a Plano West senior. Simon joined the march with Dallas NCSY “This experience fuels my commitment to carry the spirit of unity and justice into my daily life.”
Whether you could attend the march, are Jewish or non-Jewish, there are several ways to get involved in the fight for Israel and against antisemitism. According to Rabbi Ari Sunshine, “We all have vital roles to play as de facto ‘ambassadors’ for Israel and for the Jewish people, in our workplaces, local community, and on social media feeds,” Sunshine said.
But, the march also is a sign that we aren’t alone in this fight. While the March for Israel proudly demonstrated the strength and unity of the global Jewish community and its allies, the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and rising antisemitism is a harsh reminder that our fight is far from over. Until then, we must continue to speak out and show up for each other.
To order a “Dallas Stands with Israel” sweatshirt visit, https://forms.gle/Rcn2Egd4Nix
ShaN76. To watch the video of the March for Israel, visit, https://www.marchforisrael.org/watch-the-march/
Hallie Sternblitz reporting from Washington, D.C., Sharon Wisch-Ray and Corinne Baum contributed to this report.