Courtesy of Jewish in St.Louis
An estimated 1,000 St. Louisans packed the gymnasium at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) on Thursday night (Jan 8) to show support for Israel and express hopes for peace during the ongoing Gaza crisis. The “St. Louis Stands with Israel” event, convened by Jewish Federation of St. Louis – along with the Jewish Community Relations Council, the JCC and a large group of area organizations was one of dozens taking place across the country during “Israel Solidarity Week.”
Sheila Greenbaum, Jewish Federation president, opened the evening expressing empathy for innocent victims. “We feel pain as the casualties mount and extend our condolences to the families of Israel …and to innocent Palestinians who have been betrayed by their own leaders; many used as human shields and raised to hate,” she said. “We come together tonight to hope and pray for a peaceful end to this terrible conflict. Israel’s attempts to protect herself are essential. And it is equally essential that terrorists like Hamas learn they cannot achieve their goals through violence.”
Highlights included remarks by Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (R) and Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, both of whom toured Israel in December and visited communities within range of Gaza rocket fire. Chappelle-Nadal said, “There’s an impression out there that Israelis are not compassionate. The Gaza residents we saw at a hospital in Ashkelon were getting the same treatment as Israelis. And this is a medical facility funded by the Israeli government. Israel honored the cease fire while Gaza continued to fire rockets.” She went on to say, “We must convey our support for Israel and do what we can on the local level.”
Three speakers told personal storied representing the people of Southern Israel: Rachel Schwartz, an expert in post-traumatic stress disorder, told stories of the children who live daily with the threat of rocket attacks – and the toll it takes on them. St. Louis teenager, Hannah Berg, shared letters from Israeli friends who have been under attack. And Ron Golan, whose family lives in a kibbutz near Gaza, told the emotional story of his elderly parents who were forced to leave their lifelong home.
Local Jewish clergy and community leaders participated, leading prayers for peace – and prayers for innocent Israeli and Palestinian victims.
Other dignitaries in attendance: St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley; State Senator Jeff Smith; State Representative Rachel Storch; State Representative Jake Zimmerman; Steve Engelhardt, representing Congressman William Lacy Clay; Gedlu Metaferia of the African Mutual Assistance Association of Missouri; Dinnorah Bommarito - Vice Chair of the Hispanic Leadership Council.
St. Louisans were urged to write messages of support to communities under siege. All messages will be taken back to Israel by the Consul General.
Jewish Federation also announced the need for funds through the 2009 Israel Emergency Campaign to meet the needs of Israeli victims, many living in towns struck repeatedly by Hamas. Donations will provide counseling for trauma victims, supplies such as blankets and toys for bomb shelters, training for physicians, nurses, social workers, mental-health professionals and first-responders and municipal emergency planning support and help relocating children and families to safer areas. Secure online donations can be made by clicking here: www.jewishinstlouis.org/IEC
Regular updates on the situation appear in a special Gaza Crisis Section at www.jewishinstlouis.org/Gaza - which provides breaking news, in-depth information, analysis and international links.
This community event was convened by the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council and hosted by the Jewish Community Center with support from these organizations: American Jewish Committee; American Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League, Missouri/Southern Illinois; Association of Reform Rabbis; Bayit Yisraeli; Central Agency for Jewish Education; Hadassah, St. Louis Chapter; Jewish Federation of Southern Illinois, Southeastern Missouri and Western Kentucky; National Council of Jewish Women; St. Louis Rabbinical Assembly; St. Louis Rabbinical Association; St. Louis Rabbinical Council, Aish Ha Torah, Block Yeshiva High School, Bnai-Brith Mid-American Region, Bais Yaakov High School, Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish War Veterans, Kollel of St. Louis, Ohr Atid, Torah Prep School.
Jewish Federation is the central philanthropic and planning address of the St. Louis Jewish community, raising funds to support 48 human and social service agencies and programs in St. Louis, Israel and around the world. Founded in 1901, it is one of St. Louis’ largest and oldest fundraising organizations.