September 23, 2009
Hundreds of postcards for abducted Israeli soldier delivered to Red Cross headquarters in effort organized by the Jewish Agency
Convened by the Jewish Agency for Israel, Federation and community leaders met with the Red Cross in Washington Tuesday to deliver postcards written to captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Leaders of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the Jewish Agency for Israel delivered hundreds of postcards from the group Americans for Gilad Shalit to Gail McGovern, CEO of the American Red Cross, and Mary Werntz, the head of the delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Jewish leaders also delivered thousands of names from an online petition, calling on the Red Cross to continue demanding that Shalit receive the full rights of an abducted soldier under international law.
The delegation included Jewish Federation of Greater Washington President Susie Gelman and CEO Misha Galperin, who discussed the Jewish value of rescuing those held captive, and the centrality placed on the individual human life. Also participating were Dede Feinberg, past president of the Washington Federation and co-chair of the 2009 General Assembly (with her husband Kenneth and International Chair Leonid Nevzlin) and Board Member of the Federation of Greater Washington Norm Goldstein. Feinberg and Goldstein are also on the board of the Jewish Agency.
In presenting the postcards, Goldstein spoke of “the grave concerns of American Jews regarding the fate and well-being of Gilad Shalit. Tell us what we can do to help,” he said.
“The Red Cross has been trying to obtain access to Gilad Shalit since his capture in June 2006,” said Werntz. “It has done so through its contacts in Gaza, in Damascus and at various levels. This is a discussion that takes place all the time, several times per week in the different contexts. Rest assured that we will continue in our efforts.”
She noted that to date the Red Cross had been denied any form of contact with Shalit.
The Red Cross meeting marked the culmination of efforts in a dozen cities in the United States, organized by Jewish Agency emissaries at Federations and community organizations, to mark Shalit’s 23rd birthday and increase awareness of the plight of the Israeli soldier abducted by Hamas in Gaza over three years ago.
Events included formal declarations on the municipal and state level calling for Hamas to free Shalit, and participants signed postcards to the Red Cross with personal messages to the captive Israeli – which were delivered in Tuesday’s meeting.
Werntz said the postcards would be delivered to Geneva and from there to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Asked whether Shalit would ever get them, “it will probably be only after he is released,” she said.