Raising the roof

What American friends of Israel really need is a good, old fashioned, gospel-style rally.

shalit rally in ny 298 g (photo credit: Gal Beckerman)
shalit rally in ny 298 g
(photo credit: Gal Beckerman)
The organizers planned for several hundred people to attend the rally. Instead about 1,000 showed up, filling the sanctuary of Plantation's Ramat Shalom synagogue. Organized by the United Jewish Community of Broward County/ Jewish Federation and the Broward Board of Rabbis and sponsored by many other prominent local Jewish organizations, the "Solidarity Vigil for Israel" was one of many recent shows of American Jewish support for the crisis Israel is currently enduring. I don't really like the typical "Oseh Shalom" kinds of American Jewish event, as I often call them. But as I am feeling so far away from "home" with everything going on, I decided that I should go and be counted. In the end, I was sort of glad that I went. There was definitely a feeling of solidarity in being crammed into a room with so many other supporters of Israel, whether they were American Jews, Israeli Jews, or just people feeling the need to be with others who cared about Israel and what it is going through. It felt right to be standing alongside many Americans and Israelis who felt compelled to come together. BUT I SAY "sort of" because I really do wish that such gatherings, vigils or rallies gave me an inspirational feeling of rallying the troops. As I said to one friend, without any offense intended to the wonderful organizers and devoted rabbis in attendance, what we really needed was a good, old fashioned, gospel-style service. American Jews need more then the obvious politicking from heads of Jewish organizations vying to show that they are the most committed. Or the esteemed rabbis, who all needed to speak or lead a prayer so that they at least had their chance at addressing the throng. We already know these leaders support Israel unequivocally. There is no questioning their loyalty and love. So why not do something different next time to get the blood really pumping and make people leave feeling energized, and that they want to get more involved with their Jewish community organizations, support Israel and make a difference? And yes, of course we want them to keep those checks coming. We obviously need those checks, but we need more feeling, too. WE NEED raucous singing, yelling, chanting and waving signs and slogans. We need some different Jewish or Israeli music and songs that will give people an added feeling of being emotionally pulled toward their Jewish homeland. I suppose we need for people to be inspired to become activists even though activism isn't a word really taught to our children anymore. We need to hear from more Israelis, veterans of wars, who have been through things most Americans have not. Why does a rabbi need to read the prayer for the State of Israel, or the prayer for Israeli soldiers? Wouldn't it be way more emotional to have an Israeli veteran, a young Israeli exchange student or even a young local student read those prayers? I did, however, like the brief speech from Aaron Sagui, the Israeli consul for political affairs in Miami. Sagui informed the crowd of the IAF's attempt that evening to eliminate Hizbullah's leadership. He told them that pictures of gatherings like our vigil should be transmitted to any remaining heads of Hizbullah, to show them how much the American people and other peoples around the world support the State of Israel. Sagui then added, "that is, if the Hizbullah still has any capability left to receive the transmitted pictures." It got a good laugh from the crowd. Probably the only laugh of the evening. Not that war is a laughing matter. But who is to say that a little emotion or humor at the expense of our enemies isn't warranted and doesn't help to make us feel better? MY OTHER main concern about events like the solidarity vigil are their ability to continue to draw in our young people. As usual, there was a preponderance of older folk, followed by the very familiar faces in my middle-aged generation who are already involved on some level in the local Jewish community. The younger attendees seemed to be mostly there with their parents. Yes, those younger people will most likely always remember having been at an event that supported Israel during a crucial time. But they might remember it more vividly and become more inspired to get involved if American Jewish leaders came up with new formulas to creatively grab the attention not just of old-timers like me, but of the generations to come. The writer, an Israeli-American citizen, is a former journalist who currently teaches media education and works in public relations. She lives in Hollywood, Florida.