Eisenhower Park in East Meadow was the scene of a Long Island Stands With Israel rally on Sunday.
Three-thousand people packed Eisenhower’s Harry Chapin Theatre, holding Israeli flags and signs saying “We Stand With Israel,” “Free Palestinians From Hamas,” “Bring Them Home” and “Let My People Go.”
Spiritual leaders from Long Island synagogues blew shofars, officially signaling the start of the rally.
“To me, the most painful experience in the last week was visiting the Tel Aviv center for Bring Them Back Now, for the hostages,” said Rabbi Ya’akov Trump of Young Israel of Lawrence Cedarhurst, who had just returned from Israel.
“When you meet a family of somebody who has somebody in Gaza right now, the pain is so tangible, you can almost feel it in the room.”
Jewish War Veterans Post 652 presented the color guard, and students from HAFTR, the North Shore Hebrew Academy and Solomon Schecter, sang Hatikvah and the Star Spangled Banner.
In the weeks following the Oct. 7 attack, antisemitism and hateful acts against Jews around the world have been on a steady rise — up 400 percentf, when compared to the same time period in 2022, according to the ADL.
Pamela Barnett, chair of UJA Long Island, said it was hard to believe that only a few days before the rally, Jews commemorated the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the organized violent attack against Jews and their synagogues and businesses in Germany in 1938.
“It truly feels like history is repeating itself,” Barnett said.
Twelve-hundred innocent Israelis were murdered and over 240 taken hostage, “including infants and children, grandparents, entire families, people young and old, burned alive, raped, beheaded, and for no other reason than because they were Jewish,” she said.
“We stand unequivocally with Israel who is fighting terror on its border, as every sovereign nation must. Israel has the duty, the absolute obligation, to protect its citizens and its country. And at the same time, we grieve for the suffering of innocent, innocent Palestinian civilians who are also victims of Hamas’ brutality.”
She added that the increase in antisemitism must not hinder the community from living “proudly, public Jewish lives.”
New York State Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader and highest ranking Jewish official ever elected in the U.S., said he is working tirelessly to ensure that Israel is supported.
“I was the first elected official to go to Israel after Oct. 7,” he said, “and I got off the plane, and I said to Israel ‘We have your back.’ We feel your pain.”
Rep. Nick LaLota, whose congressional district includes xxxxx, represents the state’s first congressional district said a ceasefire should not be considered.
“A ceasefire would only give our common enemies more time to regroup, to reattack,” he said. “No American, no other friend of Israel throughout the world, should promote the notion of a ceasefire. We must eradicate the terrorists right away.”
Todd Richman, the UJA’s co-chair of Long Island Global Jewish Affairs, encouraged the crowd to lobby extensively.
“Go to House.gov, call the Capisstol switchboard — just Google it — and make your voices heard on Capitol Hill,” he said. “For all of you that have children or grandchildren on college campuses, make sure they do the same thing. Because members of Congress listen to their constituents.”
Each speaker on stage stood at a podium, with over 200 chairs behind them — each featuring the face of someone held hostage, alongside a Teddy Bear.
“I am a mother and have children the same ages as our soldiers, and many of our hostages,” Barnett added. “I go to sleep every night praying for our soldiers and hostages and wake up every morning praying for them. We must not stop until every hostage is free. We refuse to be silent. Bring them home.”