Dear PSJC Community, Earlier this week, I, along with many PSJC members, joined about 300,000 people on the National Mall in Washington DC to speak out for Israel, for the release of the hostages being held in Gaza, and to express concern over the increase in anti-Semitism across our nation and the world. It was a historic moment in our story as American Jews. I felt a wave of emotion when Natan Sharansky took the stage and spoke to us as a former Member of Knesset, as a leader of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and as a Refusenik for whom I remember marching in 1987 as a young college student coming to Washington, DC for the first time, to protest on behalf of Soviet Jewry. While I recognize that this gathering did not include the full-range of Jewish expression in this moment, it was quite impressive to see such a wide-breadth of the Jewish community present and able to stand side by side and make a statement about the importance of Israel in our lives. As I shared images from that day with Israeli friends, each and every person told me how much strength it gave them to know they were not alone during these difficult days. For me, that alone was enough of a reason to have gone. Perhaps the most powerful speakers, for me, were the family members of hostages taken on October 7. I listened to them plead with us to do everything we could to “bring them home”—to hear their cries, and to keep them from becoming a footnote in this horrible war. We are committed to doing just that. To doing what we can to raise their stories so the world does not forget them—so that hopefully soon, they can be reunited with their families.
Just one day before, a former Brooklyn shinshinit, Aviv, called me to share the story of one of these hostages, a young girl named Emily Hand who turns nine today, far from her family, likely in a tunnel somewhere in Gaza. Please join with me in remembering Emily and all of her fellow hostages and in lifting up her story. I want to add one other request: When you light your shabbat candles tonight, please add a birthday candle, to honor Emily and to remember the hostages, and to pray for light to overcome the dark. If you can take a photo (before the bracha) and share it to broaden the message, all the better.
May this first Shabbat of the month of Kislev help us find the light in the midst of these very dark days, and may it bring a time of peace closer, for Israelis, Palestinians, and for us all.
Rabbi Carie Carter