While Hamas-lovers rallied outside the office of Rep. Ritchie Torres in the Bronx’s Fordham neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon, a larger pro-Israel crowd assembled in Riverdale’s Seton Park.
The Fordam protest denounced Torres, a Progressive Democrat, for his long-standing support of the Jewish state, displaying a wanted poster accusing him of aiding “genocide,” a blood-libel that radical haters of Jewish rights have been leveling at Israel.
As the Riverdale rally, political leaders and students and a principal from Riverdale’s SAR High School delivered full-throated support to Israel in the war Hamas launched on Oct. 7.
Rabbi Tully Harcsztark, founding principal of SAR, recounted being “raised in a home that was shaped by the wretched memories and deep trauma of the Holocaust that haunted my father’s life and the lives of his brother and sister.
“But I was borm into a new world, a world that witnessed the birth of a Jewish state that could protect its people in a tiny slice of world that is their homeland. Or so we thought. Eighteen days ago, my perception of this new world was shattered.”
“Hamas is an authoritarian government that oppresses the people in the Gaza Strip, they oppress Palestinians,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said. “If you don’t agree with them, you’re probably going to be dead.”
As he spoke, with an anti-Israel rally underway in Fordham, Dinowitz added, “I find it shocking that there are organizations that actually support them, that make excuses for them, that don’t condemn them.”
Councilman Eric Dinowitz also voiced criticism of “the organizations and the elected officials who waited until the murders and the kidnappings were done — and they waited and waited until they call for a ceasefire.”
Borough President Venessa Gibson said she was “thankful we have colleagues and leaders that understand this is personal. You attack one of us, you attack all of us. We are in this together."
“I stand before you as your Bronx borough president, as an African-American woman who is deeply aligned with the Jewish community,” she said. “We are all children of G-d, we all have a responsibility. We cannot falter in the face of hatred and antisemitism and bigotry and discrimination and violence. So I am here as your ally, to stand with all of you in supporting our Jewish brothers and sisters, and the entire Jewish community during this time.”
Ananya Silverman and Alex Wolf, two of the more than 600 SAR students at the rally, spoke.
“We are living in a broken world,” said Wolf, “where Hamas commits genocidal atrocities, and yet Israel is accused of genocide … where terrorists are called legitimate freedom fighters, and legitimate armies trying to defend their people are called terrorists … where Islamic Jihad is to blame for a hospital bombing, and yet Israel is blamed … where college campuses defend the murder of innocent civilians and children and failed to defend their Jewish peers and students.”
“One constant in this broken world has been the unwavering support from Congressman Ritchie Torres,” said Silverman, who then referred to the rally in Fordham.
“We gathered here today in a peaceful counter-protest against those calling Congressman Torres ‘wanted for genocide’ for his support of Israel. Despite death threats and aggressive opposition, Congressman Torres has stood steadfast in support of Israel and the Jewish people. It is crucial to stand up to tyrants to speak out against evil, and Congressman Torres has not stayed quiet.”
Torres, who in Washington on Tuesday, responded to the day's events with a Tweet that began, “My Congressonal District saw two rallies regarding Israel.
“An astroturf anti-Israel hate rally with less than 100 people (mostly from outside by District) chanting ‘resistance is justified.’
“A grassroots pro-Israel rally with 1000 people form the Riverdale community, standing with me for speaking out forcefully against the barbaric terrorism of Hamas.”
Rabbanit Bracha Jaffe of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (The Bayit) concluded the Seton Park rally by leading the crowd in singing "Acheinu Kol Beis Yisroel (Our brothers and sisters the whole house of Israel)." As the rally was disbursing, many people added an impromtu singing of "Hatikvah."