I don’t want my home to be Ground Zero

I haven’t slept much since waking up on October 7th.  On that day, the greatest fears of the global Jewish community were realized as Hamas terrorized, slaughtered, raped, and kidnapped civilians in their communities. They indiscriminately butchered Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and so many others regardless of religion or nationality.  The vulnerability of the State of Israel had been exposed.  Who would stand with us in our moment of need?

Together with our partners at UJA-Federation, JCRC-NY got to work mobilizing support for Israel and the Jewish community.  We organized three major rallies for tens of thousands of New Yorkers, and Jews and non-Jews alike showed up and spoke out in support of Israel.  We solicited support from elected officials and diverse community leaders and received an outpouring of expressions of sympathy and calls for the immediate release of the hostages.  We coordinated meetings between these leaders and families of hostages, who shared their pain and pleaded for help bringing their loved ones home.  We liaised with law enforcement to make sure our communities and institutions were secure so that we could pray and convene in peace.  We spoke at press conferences in every borough and supported the elected officials who stood proudly and continue to stand firmly with Israel.  And earlier today, we returned from two concurrent solidarity missions to Israel in which 26 leading elected officials and faith leaders joined us to offer comfort to the survivors, the families of victims, and bear witness to the cruelty and evil inflicted by Hamas.

Back in New York, I remain troubled by public calls to “Globalize the Intifada,” “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and “there is only one solution, Intifada revolution.”  Make no mistake, whatever verbal gymnastics some folks use to justify these slogans as calls for human rights, they cause fear within the Jewish community and violence against us.  It’s no surprise that in the wake of October 7th, anti-Jewish incidents have increased 214%.  It hurts to feel unwelcome in your own home.

Last Monday, at a rally that JCRC-NY produced with UJA-Federation, I stood on stage in front of a crowd of over 10,000 people sharing some of my deepest convictions – ones that are shared by Israelis across the political spectrum. “Hamas and its supporters do not seek peace. They actively call for more violence by any means necessary! Let me be clear: Murderers are not liberators. You do not kidnap innocents for human rights. And there is no such thing as beheading babies in the name of social justice!”

Like all forms of hate, anti-Jewish hate has consequences that extend beyond its immediate victims. Each incident, whether overt or subtle, contributes to an environment where people feel marginalized, unsafe, and excluded.  Beyond the visible scars, those feelings ripple through entire communities ultimately turning into another generational trauma that we will carry forward with us.

Yesterday, I met a woman from Netiv Ha’Asara, an Israeli town just outside of Gaza, who survived the Hamas attacks on October 7th and was evacuated from her home along with the other survivors to a hotel in Central Israel, away from the fighting.  She cried saying, “I don’t want my home to be Ground Zero.” While we live thousands of miles away in New York, I feel the exact same way. We cannot allow our streets to become centers of hate.  We cannot allow our communities to devolve into violence and intimidation.  JCRC-NY’s constant work to build bridges between communities and foster shared society is the antidote to this disease.

We have spoken loudly in support of Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas and bring the hostages home, and we will continue to do so.  We remain in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel and their right to live in safety and security.  We are thankful to all the elected officials and community leaders who have stood with us at this time.  Your support for the global Jewish community is deeply meaningful, and now it’s more important than ever.

Shabbat Shalom,

Noam Gilboord
Interim CEO, JCRC-NY