October 7 Coalition unites Christians, Jews
Photo: Sharon Wisch-Ray
Patricia Heaton, O7C co-founder, speaks at a fellowship luncheon in Dallas June 6, 2024.

Actress Patricia Heaton visits Dallas, shares vision of O7C

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Christian and Jewish leaders gathered at the Museum of Biblical Art on Thursday, June 6, to stand in solidarity against antisemitism and in support of Israel.

Elizabeth Dorros, co-founder of the October 7 Coalition (O7C) along with actress Patricia Heaton, thanked supporters for uniting Christians and Jews. The O7C was founded after the deadly attack on Israel Oct. 7 by Hamas terrorists.

“O7C calls upon Christians to stand boldly, both physically and vocally, against antisemitism with our Jewish brothers and sisters as we’re doing here today,” Dorros said.

Dorros’ husband is Jewish. They have three children and she is thankful for the unity that O7C brings about.

“The unity that’s reflected here in this room is an example of light in the world, especially during such dark times,” she said.

The gathering aimed to strengthen ties between Christians and Jews.

Choosing good over evil

A number of Jews and Christians spoke during the luncheon, including Pastor Wayne Wilks, executive pastor of development for Gateway Center for Israel; Rabbi Daniel Ringelheim, rosh hayeshiva and director of development of Texas Torah Institute; Rabbi Ariel Rackovsky, of Congregation Shaare Tefilla; Ken Goldberg, chair of the Texas Holocaust Genocide and Antisemistism Advisory Commission; and Pastor Ryan Warren, of the Gateway Church on Hillcrest. Heaton was the keynote speaker.

Pastor Wilks said that he was stunned by the silence from many church pulpits following Oct. 7.

“While some pastors maybe didn’t know what to say, I think others lacked the moral clarity or the courage to speak up,” he said. Wilks said that following the Jan. 15, 2022, hostage crisis at Congregation Beth Israel, he went to visit Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and learned from him the trepidations of Jews who were congregants of the synagogue and concerns they had of being a minority in what is considered a “very evangelical area.”

In front of 250 people, who appeared to be equally split between the two faith communities, Rabbi Ringelheim spoke about Shavuot and discussed when God revealed himself to the Jewish people through the giving of the Torah.

Rabbi Ringelheim said that throughout history “many evil regimes tried to undermine and destroy God’s vision in the world in an attempt to eradicate the goodness of the Creator.

“Moral clarity has become a rarity,” he said. “Many young students at our finest institutions, together with their tenured professors, have lost their way,” he said.

Wilks said his church has taken pastors to visit Holocaust sites in Europe to learn lessons to apply in combating antisemitism in America. He met with Rabbi Ringelheim to discuss building stronger interfaith relationships.

Rabbi Ringelheim called for a “revival of morality” and prayed that good prevails over evil. Pastor Wilks said Gateway will continue educating pastors and rallying support for Israel.

Rabbi Rackovsky spoke after attendees had begun their lunch, which was catered by Simcha Kosher Catering. He shared the story of Purim and a brief history of attempts to rid Jews from the earth for more than 2,000 years.

“Fellow Jews are looking around and wondering if history is repeating itself in the United States,” he said. “Institutions of higher learning, which should provide physical safety and intellectual discomfort, are actually serving the exact opposite purpose. These are the places where the future leaders are being educated. And they have become hotbeds of antisemitism.”

Rabbi Rackovsky concluded his remarks with a message of thanks and understanding to the Christians in attendance.

“If you are here … you are here because you want us to feel that we are not the only ones who need to show strength because you recognize that it is not the responsibility of Jews to fight and prevent antisemitism. It is the responsibility of non-Jews to fight antisemitism.”

Goldberg briefly updated the group on the work of the THAGC, which works with partners throughout the state to combat antisemitism and all forms of hate. He thanked Heaton and those in attendance for their courage in speaking up and for giving Jews “the confidence to simply articulate what we already know. This is a battle, right versus wrong. And good — not perfect — but good versus evil.”

Pastor Ryan Warren serves the Gateway Church on Hillcrest located within the South Eruv. He has formed relationships with many of the rabbis who serve congregations in the eruv. He likened the fight the Jews are facing to that of the story of David and Goliath and said that the Jews will prevail as David did.

“We followers of Jesus Christ in Dallas will not stand to see the Jewish history rewritten. We will not stand to see the lies of terrorists spread who continue to hold innocent people as hostages and we will not stand to be intimidated by those who choose to believe their lies. But we will stand for goodness, we will stand for life and we will stand with the Jewish people.”

The October 7 Coalition

Heaton spoke of her long-felt connection to the Jewish people both from her Catholic upbringing and her first close Jewish friend at The Ohio State University as well as her work and friendships with fellow actors and directors, including Steven Spielberg.

She said that if Jesus hadn’t been a Jew, then “he could not have been our savior. So we are deeply indebted to God and his choosing of you, the Jewish people.”

Heaton said that the principles guiding her and O7C are based on the second of the Ten Commandments. “Love your neighbor as yourself. That is our call today and that is why we must step outside the walls of our churches and our synagogues and unite in this current yet ancient struggle,” she said.

She said that it has always been clear to her that Christians and Jews are forever united.

Heaton said that as Oct. 7 unfolded, she was horrified by the images she was seeing and astonished by how quickly Israel became the “bad guys” as the well-funded and seemingly well-planned antisemitic protests broke out on campuses within days.

She said she couldn’t understand why more churches in Nashville, where she makes her home, weren’t speaking out.

“Nashville is a beautiful community of very warm and welcoming people. I knew that they supported Israel and I was wondering why I wasn’t hearing more about it,” she said.

By December, Heaton and Dorros had devised a plan of outreach to both the Christian and Jewish communities. On Dec. 21, they hosted a luncheon attended by 80 pastors.

“We wanted to raise awareness that even here in Nashville, antisemitism and Jew-hatred was a problem,” she said.

Heaton said that following the luncheon O7C drafted a letter to Nashville’s rabbis and Jewish leaders signed by 148 Christian leaders and pastors.

“It was an apology for the historic wrongs of the Church against the Jews and a statement to say, ‘We are with you and we support you. Let us know what we can do.’”

Heaton described what was a grassroots outreach effort having coffee and conversations with members of the Jewish community, rabbis and Federation leaders; partnering with the Israel Consulate in Atlanta to screen the Oct. 7 footage; hosting Ambassador Michael Herzog at a breakfast for Christian leaders; and hosting a unity dinner titled “You are Not Alone.”

“At Church of the City in Franklin (Tennessee), every rabbi and all the Jewish leaders attended. About 250 people came, along with our Christian leaders and it’s the first time they’ve all gathered together in Nashville.”

Heaton’s O7C work has taken her to Columbia University to speak out against anti-Israel student protests and for releasing the hostages.

A recent project completed by O7C is the Promise Sessions. Along with Rabbi Saul Strosberg of Congregation Shereth Israel, the group brought Israeli musicians who had just finished their Israel Defense Forces service to Nashville to do music trauma therapy. The Israeli musicians then recorded their music with professional musicians and producers in Nashville.

 “We are at a pivotal time in history and something really important needs to be said,” Heaton explained. “There’s no neutral position here. You can’t do both sides. You’re either with good or with evil. That’s the choice.”

The program concluded with performances by Christian musicians Aaron Shust and Misha Hoyt and country music artist Israeli Omer Netzer, who just returned from IDF service. Netzer and Hoyt led the group in “Hatikvah.”

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