Speakers also discuss ending antisemitism
It was pouring down rain Tuesday morning and Barry Abels, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, wondered if anyone would come out to the rally in support of Israel and against antisemitism planned for that evening. It was to be a rain or shine event. Eventually, the sun came out and more than 175 people from all walks of life gathered in support of the state and people of Israel and to stand in solidarity against antisemitism.
At the event, organized by the Federation with the support of all of the Tarrant County synagogues, B’nai B’rith and Jewish War Veterans Post 755, speakers offered prayers, songs and inspiring words as people clapped and cheered. Signs proclaiming unity with Israel, and Israeli and American flags, were scattered throughout the crowd.
Rabbi Andrew Bloom from Congregation Ahavath Sholom led off the event with an invocation, followed by the national anthem led by Hazzan Jeffrey Weber. The crowd enthusiastically joined in. Barry Abels then welcomed Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who staunchly spoke against the rising tide of antisemitism and about her support of Israel. Price is one of more than 600 mayors who has signed a statement about the need to combat antisemitism, a joint initiative of American Jewish Committee and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Other speakers included Barry Abels, on behalf of the Federation; Phil Kabakoff, commander of Post 755; Michael Kapin, president-elect of Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington; Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville; and Rabbi Brian Zimmerman of Beth-El Congregation. All of the speakers’ comments or prayers spoke of peace and unity. Rabbis Levi Gurevitch and Dov Mandel of Chabad were out of town, but sent greetings of support.
Special guest Chuck Kaufman, president of B’nai B’rith International, spoke of the many technological innovations that Israel has given the world, as well as the rights we all have to live free from fear, hatred and bias. It was a diverse crowd with the Jewish community members joined by many others.
Just before the program began, a group of men dressed in khaki shirts with a “militia” look approached the square, about 20 strong. People glanced about and looked toward the police nearby, but then someone noted that they came marching in with both U.S. and Israeli flags. It turned out that they were the “Patriotic Boys,” ex-military men, Christians, who support Israel and wanted to help protect the crowd from any protesters. Fortunately, there were no counter-demonstrators, and everyone was able to fully participate in the program.
Also in attendance were Fort Worth City Council Members Michael Crain, Carlos Flores and Jungus Jordan. Toward the end of the program Hazzan Weber led the crowd in “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu.”
Following a closing benediction from Bloom, the crowd joined in “Hatikvah,” which could be heard for blocks. Feelings of solidarity with the people of Israel were clearly strong. Abels commented that when Hamas and Hezbollah would work for the needs of the Palestinian people, instead of spending millions on tunnels into Israel and rockets that killed indiscriminately, trying to destroy Israel, then peace could be on the horizon. People stayed around the square for quite a while, commenting on the readings and speeches and feeling a sense of “unity in community.” For many it was the first time that they were out and able to interact with so many friends and neighbors since the start of COVID-19. Organizers also noted the support from the City of Fort Worth and the police that allowed the event to come together smoothly. Strong support for Israel, prayers for peace and calls for an end to acts of antisemitism were the order of the day.