Crisis in Israel
The devastating news from Israel is so painful, and we suspect that many of you are feeling the shock, anger, sadness, and deep desire to help that we feel.
The infiltration by Hamas terrorists and the atrocities that were/are committed against Israelis are horrifying and despicable. The suffering of innocent Gazans and Palestinians in the West Bank is deeply painful. We are heartsick. And we are praying for all those who are wounded, in grief, and those taken hostage. We are deeply worried for all those who are suffering directly.
We’ve been in touch continuously with our CBST community in Israel, our friends and partners, both Israeli and Palestinian. We stand with all those who are working, even now, especially now, to take care of each other, to heal, to build, to imagine a future in which these horrors do not happen.
Our community, like any large community, includes people with a range of experiences, identities, and opinions. On this topic, we know that that range is especially broad. Our deepest key values are refusing to dehumanize any group of people, being committed to learning more and listening to each other, and recognizing with humility that none of us has the answer, and doing our best to heal the world in the ways that speak to our souls.
Israelis and Palestinians have both always existed in that small strip of land. Both peoples will continue to exist there. We support the Israelis and Palestinians who understand and respect each other’s connection to the land, and who continue the work of creating a future in which all can thrive.
Please scroll through this page or follow one of the quick links below for more information:
A Letter from Jerusalem
We would like to suggest that the best source of news around Israel is not American outlets, but rather the English language edition of Ha’aretz. Many of you have heard Rabbi Kleinbaum say this before, but we urge you to subscribe if you can for a more in-depth and nuanced perspective on what’s happening on the ground. It’s also an important way to support democracy and a free press in Israel. If you have a New York Public Library Card, you can access the most recent print editions through Press Reader (for help with this, contact your local library).
Many of you have been asking about where you can send contributions. We are encouraging folks to contribute to:
- Bring Them Home Now: the Hostages and Missing Families Forum – We are the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, an organization that pours its resources into bringing home the kidnapped Israelis from the Hamas capture in Gaza. Our mission is driven by love, compassion, and an unsinkable determination to end the anguish of countless families torn apart by these harrowing circumstances.
- ACRI: The Association for Civil Rights in Israel – Led by our dear colleague Rabbi Noa Sattath, ACRI is the oldest and most influential civil and human rights organization in Israel, the only NGO in Israel advocating across the broad spectrum of human rights and civil liberties for everyone living in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. An independent and non-partisan organization, ACRI defends the human rights and civil liberties of all, regardless of religion, nationality, gender, ethnicity, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic background.
- NIF Emergency Fund – As Israel grapples with the aftermath, the New Israel Fund has launched an emergency response fund to assist vulnerable communities in the south, including kibbutzim and Bedouin communities. NIF is also countering online incitement, working to prevent violence in mixed communities, and providing essential and ongoing mental health support.
- Jerusalem Open House Emergency Fund – The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance is a grassroots community organization that operates a community center, provides essential services and promotes social change for the LGBTQ community. Since 1997 we have been working towards turning Jerusalem into a city where every one is free to be themselves and to build an example of an Israeli society which is liberal and pluralistic, with equal rights for LGBTQ individuals.
- UJA’s Israel Emergency Fund mobilizing urgently needed relief for the people of Israel, including emergency cash assistance for victims of terror, critically needed trauma counseling, care for children in shelters, burial expenses, and funds to relocate people to safer areas.
- Magen David Adom‘s network of 33,000 paramedics and first responders have been working around the clock to save lives, performing dangerous and heroic work in southern Israel and across the country. Your support can enable them to deploy more ambulances and replenish critical supplies.
- International Committee of the Red Cross is working tirelessly to provide lifesaving medical care on both sides of the Gaza border. The Red Cross network covers both the Magen David Adom ambulance network in Israel and the Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulance network, with staff working round the clock to treat casualties and provide urgent humanitarian assistance.
- Located in Be’er Sheva, Soroka Medical Center is the only major hospital in the Negev region. Over the last several days, the hospital has already treated over 700 patients, at least 130 of whom are in critical condition. Donations can be made through American Friends of Soroka Medical Center.
- Dror Israel Emergency Response – Dror Israel is an education-focused non-profit striving for a just, equal and democratic Israel. With schools closing, reservists being called up and thousands of children traumatized, Dror Israel is working to support evacuees, assist with day care for children of hospital workers and other essential staff and provide support to children and families impacted by the attacks.
- Gisha is an Israeli legal advocacy group that works to support international law and the rights and freedoms of Gaza residents through both direct legal case support and political advocacy. They are continuing to press for emergency medical and humanitarian supplies to be delivered to Gaza and to push for all parties to uphold international law.
- United Hatzalah of Israel is the largest fully volunteer Emergency Medical Service organization. It stands out for its fast response times, often providing vital care before an ambulance arrives. The group has launched an emergency appeal for desperately needed supplies and equipment as they continue to respond to provide support in southern Israel.
- Democracy HQ Response Fund – Democracy HQ and member organizations of the pro-democracy protest movement are uniting to support the people of Israel during this war. The groups have established a central assistance center to connect host families with families from the south of the country, provide transportation services from the fighting line to safe areas, a food convoy to hospitals, protective gear for soldiers and more.
- Emergency Response: Unrecognized Arab Villages in the Negev – There are over 40 Bedouin villages in the Negev with over 200,000 residents. With little support from the Israeli government in the best of times, some have been hit by Hamas rockets and are struggling with supplies. Donations to the Regional Council for Unrecognized Arab Villages in the Negev via the New Israel Fund will assist volunteers organizing supply convoys of water, food, first aid and construction materials.
- Physicians for Human Rights Israel – PHRI is an Israeli advocacy and direct aid group with a mission to advocate for human rights, equal access to healthcare and free healthcare for all – including marginalized communities and Bedouin communities in the Negev. Their emergency response is supporting direct medical aid to communities evacuated from southern Israel, including kibbutz evacuees and migrant workers, among other urgent needs.
This statement from a coalition of Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian human rights organizations is important reading: “As individuals working to promote human rights and who believe in the sanctity of life, we urgently call for an end to all indiscriminate harming of civilian lives and infrastructure. We call for negotiations and all possible action to be taken to bring about the release of the hostages – while prioritizing the civilians held by Hamas. It is the only humane and rational thing to do, and it must be done now.” Read the entire statement here.
We are grateful for T’ruah’s open letter from north American rabbis and cantors: “We look to our communities and our tradition for the strength we need today and in the coming days, weeks, months and years. We know that the only way to ensure the safety, dignity, and flourishing of both Israelis and Palestinians is a just, negotiated political solution that protects the human rights and political self-determination of both peoples. The safety of Palestinians and Israelis is inextricably linked. By signing this letter, we publicly recommit to the long, hard work of bringing about a better future for everyone in the region.” Read the entire letter here.
Join us as we create a Psalms Project – it is traditional to recite Psalms/Tehilim in time of crisis and trauma and on behalf of those who are suffering. We are asking everyone to take one of the 150 Psalms and recite it each day for a month knowing that the rest of the community is covering the other Psalms. Sign up for one or more psalms here.
Prayer for the Redemption of Israelis Taken Captive
This prayer for the liberation of abducted Israeli citizens and military personnel was offered by Rabbi Ofer Sabath Beit Halachmi in response to the war initiated by Hamas from Gaza on Shemini Atseret 5784. The English translation was prepared by Rabbi Dr. Rachel Sabath Beit Halachmi.
Programs, Events, Drashot Recordings
View recordings from recent programs:
- November 6, 2023 – CBST Members’ Town Hall on Israel with CBST Member Yaniv Cohen who is now in the reserves in Israel as an army medic.
- November 3, 2023 – Rabbi Werber’s Shabbat Vayera Drashah.
- October 30, 2023 – CBST Members’ Town Hall on Israel – we hear from a dear friend of Rabbi Noa Sattath, Iris, whose niece Naama was kidnapped and is being held hostage by Hamas.
- October 27, 2023 – Rabbi Werber’s Shabbat Lech-Lecha Drashah. Rabbi Yael Werber on our collective grief and the strength of petitioning for healing together.
- October 23, 2023 – CBST Members’ Town Hall on Israel – with Rabbi James, Ofer Newman (former director of IGY – Israeli Gay Youth), and Asaf Rosenheim (CBST community member in Israel)
- October 22, 2023 – New York Jewish Agenda (NYJA) held a Zoom Call for Concerned Supporters Of Israel, Focused On Holding The Complexity Of The Moment, with Rabbi Kleinbaum, Rabbi Noa Sattath (Executive Director of ACRI, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel), and Haaretz Correspondent Amir Tibon, and more.
- October 20, 2023 – Rabbi Kleinbaum’s Shabbat Noach Drashah. Rabbi Kleinbaum on our duty to insist on not losing our values in the face of rage and calls for revenge.
- October 16, 2023 – CBST Members’ Town Hall on Israel – with Rabbi Kleinbaum, and CBST members Hanna Gafni, Yael Bat-Chava, Yael Weiss, and Rabbi Ian Chesir-Teran (Rabbinic Educator for T’ruah in Israel).
- October 13, 2023 – Rabbi Kleinbaum’s Shabbat Bereshit Drashah. Six days after the October 7 attacks, Rabbi Kleinbaum speaks on Israelis, Palestinians, grief, history, and hope.
- October 11, 2023 – CBST Members’ Town Hall – Crisis in Israel with Rabbi Kleinbaum and Rabbi Noa Sattath (Executive Director of ACRI, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel)
- October 8, 2023 – Rabbi Kleinbaum spoke as part of a J Street Webinar in response to the initial round of news about the Hamas attack on Israel and the devastating consequences.
We are so grateful to our entire clergy team – and especially to Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Music Director Joyce Rosenzweig, Cantor Sam Rosen, Rabbi Yael Werber, Rabbi Marisa James, and Cooperberg-Rittmaster Rabbinical Intern Adam Graubart for partnering on Saturday, October 7 for one of the most meaningful Simchat Torah services we have ever experienced. We are so glad that many of you were able to join us in person or via livestream. View Simchat Torah photos by Harold Levine
If you missed the Simchat Torah service, it might be comforting to watch the whole thing by clicking here, but if you want to skip directly to some of the most powerful moments, here are:
- Rabbi Kleinbaum’s remarks about the situation in Israel (as of Saturday, October 7)
- The moving Prayer for the Mothers, co-written by Israeli and Palestinian women religious leaders.
- We were blessed to welcome Iván Barenboim, Elana Arian and Barbara Freedman to play at the service. Watch Elana’s haunting Oseh Shalom.
Resources for Families with Children
As we all grapple with the unbearable fear and sadness of the events in Israel and devastating news emerging every hour, we are thinking particularly about our children and the vital role we play as parents and caregivers. In a time when we are all scared and unsure of how this crisis will unfold, it is both extremely hard and important to help our children make sense of their own feelings.
It is so difficult to know how to talk about senseless violence and war. It is impossible to understand or wrap our heads around it, let alone explain it to our children. In times like these, we too may find ourselves in crisis and pain. These are times when our community is so important. We are here for you so that you can be strong for your families and your children.
We are collecting information and resources that may be helpful to you as you navigate this very difficult situation and, we are here for any of your questions, concerns or support.
How can I explain this to my children?
- The Lookstein Center prepared some practical resources and activities to help parents and children during this time of crisis.
- Union of Reform Judaism develops age appropriate, nuanced reflections that mirror our community’s values and create responses that are right for the children in their lives.
- Kveller writes about how to talk to your kids during this crisis with age appropriate, honest conversations starters.
Here is some factual information on what is going in Israel (taken from Rabbi Eric Grossman, Head of School at the Akiva School in Montreal, Quebec.):
- How did war break out? On Saturday, October 7, 2023—Shabbat Chag—Hamas launched a surprise attack in the south of Israel. Hundreds of Hamas fighters breached the border that separates Israel from the Gaza Strip, dispersed and took control of multiple settlements, killing hundreds of civilians, burning homes and property, and taking many people as prisoners into Gaza. More than 800 Israeli civilians were murdered, including hundreds at a party being held near the border. Many of these events were captured on videos which are circulating on social media, including those showing Hamas terrorists dragging civilians into vehicles to take them back to Gaza. Missiles have also been fired at major cities like Ashkelon, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv, leading to additional civilian deaths and injuries.
- How is Israel responding? On Sunday, October 8th, the Israeli government declared a state of war. Israel has sent its army to the communities around the Gaza border in order to save families, fight the terrorists, and secure the border again. There has been heavy fighting in towns and kibbutzim in the south of Israel. Israel is also firing missiles back at Gaza to destroy Hamas’s ability to fire on the country. Israel has called up its reserves and appears to be preparing for a ground invasion to destroy the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.
- What is the significance of this war? Proportionally, civilian casualties are the highest in any war since 1948. This is the most lethal assault against Jews since the Holocaust. And, as with the Holocaust, there is no justification for the heinous, barbaric terrorism against Israeli civilians.
- What is Hamas? Hamas is an Islamic militant group that is dedicated to destroying Israel. Since 2007, it has been the governing force in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has fired thousands of rockets at Israel, carried out other deadly attacks, and engaged in several military operations against Israel since 2007. Israel has retaliated with air strikes, and, together with Egypt, has blockaded the Gaza Strip, controlling all of its borders and who and what can enter or exit, for security purposes. Hamas is designated as a terrorist group by Israel and Western powers, including the United States, Canada, UK, Australia, and the European Union. Hamas is funded by Iran, which provides it with money, weapons, and training.