By Rhonda Hoffman
Last Thursday evening, Oct. 12, Congregations of Shaare Shamayim, 9768 Verree Road, held a solidarity rally to support Israel in light of the recent attack of the terrorist group Hamas and the killing of more than 1,300 Jewish civilians and soldiers.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog described it as “the worst mass killing of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust.”
While about 75 neighbors and congregants gathered inside the 60-year-old house of worship last week, the outside of the Verree Road structure shone in blue and white lights, the colors of the Israeli flag, in memory of the fallen.
The 75-minute program included songs and prayers by religious and lay leaders as well as messages of support by several local politicians and their representatives. A brief video from Congressman Brendan Boyle (D-2nd dist.) was shown to the gathering, many of whom held up Israel flags and signs that read, “Philly Stands with Israel.”
“The U.S. stands firm — unequivocally and unquestionably on the side of our closest ally, Israel,” said Boyle in the video.
“Israel has faced countless threats in its seven-and-a-half decades of existence as a Jewish state. It has attempted to make peace with its Arab neighbors. I pray that the day will come when there finally is peace in the Holy Land, but we’re not there yet,” Boyle continued.
Also expressing unwavering support of Israel was Gov. Josh Shapiro, who is Jewish and a member of Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park. In a 10-minute video, the governor stated, “We stand against terror and we stand with Israel. This is a moment not to retreat from who we are, but to embrace it
“There is no moral equivalency between Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization, and Israel, the only pluralistic, functioning democracy in the Middle East. Our support will not waver in the coming days and weeks of war,” concluded the governor.
Rabbi Sandra Berliner, religious leader of Shaare Shamayim, who has several relatives living in Israel, said that she is heartbroken by the recent upheaval in the Holy Land.
“I call my sister, who lives in Israel, every day and when I ask her how she’s doing, she replies, ‘We are safe, but are not OK.’ ”
The rabbi continued, “We will continue to stand together with our brothers and sisters in Israel — we are all connected.”
Congregation President Fran Gabriel as well as past president Linda Korsin echoed those sentiments of unity and support and encouraged those in attendance to donate whatever they can to help Israel, notably much-needed funds to go toward such necessities as food, shelter and medicine to “assist those who have already lost so much.”
The rally also included a video of the congregation’s executive director, Jacques Lurie’s nephew, Avi Lurie, who was called up to duty the day following Hamas’ brutal massacre.
“I am waiting for my alarm clock to wake me up from this nightmare,” the 28-year-old soldier said. Lurie, a graduate of Jack Barrack Hebrew Academy in Wynnewood who has made Israel his home since 2014, continued, “I have left everything behind so I can help my country. When I first heard news of the assault, I thought to myself that this will be quick, but Hamas opened up the gates of hell.”
Last week’s vigil concluded with Cantor Don Samuels and Rabbi Berliner leading those in attendance in Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem.
Filtering out of the gathering were congregants Steve and Marla Moskowitz, both wearing T-shirts with messages of peace — Steve’s sporting a dove of peace and Marla’s listing the word for “peace” in a dozen different languages.
That surely was the theme of the evening. ••