Philadelphia Jewish leaders anticipate building upon the strong momentum created following the massive pro-Israel rally in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14.
There will be more efforts and events to come that will focus on the tragedy of Hamas attacks, the need to free the hostages and the dangers of antisemitism, they said.
Two pro-Israel rallies took place on Nov. 16, one at the American Red Cross on Chestnut Street and the other at Temple University. The rallies likely won’t let up, local leaders say.
Marcia Bronstein, the regional director of American Jewish Committee Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey, said the March for Israel attended by nearly 300,000 people will be followed up by more advocacy work.
“We’re going to be doing what we normally do — telling our elected officials and diplomats that the Iran-backed terror organization launched the unprecedented surprise attack on Israel and the 240-plus people who were kidnapped and being held underground need to be released,” she said. “We need to condemn rising antisemitism at home. Those are our major messages that haven’t really changed much since Oct. 7 and will become even stronger after the peaceful March for Israel.”
The local AJC will have billboards and lawn signs to make those messages clear, Bronstein said.
“We want to make sure that everybody sees the need to get the hostages home,” she said. “The more times they see those messages, it clicks in the brain. We want to keep reinforcing those messages that everything is not all right; everything is not OK.”
Sarah Solomon, chief development officer for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said fundraising for Israel has never been stronger.
“Our support for Israel is unwavering,” she said.
Oct. 7 mobilized the community “in a way that I’ve never seen in the 10 years since I’ve been with the Jewish Federation,” she said. “We have worked on many emergencies and have never come together in the middle of the day on Shabbat to open our Israel Emergency Campaign. But that was the severity of the situation.”
The campaign has raised $13 million in support of programs and people in need in Israel, Solomon said.
“Every single day that the hostages are not released, Jews in America and Philadelphia feel stronger and stronger that they need to do anything and everything they can to support. Fundraising has only increased in our everyday work around this emergency,” Solomon said.
“We are now facing an emergency at home, a rise in antisemitism here in America and Philadelphia and daily incidents on our college campuses. We have seen a 388% increase in antisemitic incidents here,” she said.
Solomon said that 100% of funds raised are going to Israeli programs, while there is a local campaign for money to “secure our Jewish community, to fight antisemitism and ensure that our students and families are well equipped to handle antisemitic incidents.
“We have seen tremendous support in our ability to raise this money so quickly and I don’t see that slowing down.”
Jason Holtzman, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said that the March for Israel rally made clear the Jewish community stands united with Israel and its efforts to remove Hamas in Gaza.
The community, he said, is keeping the momentum going.
“We have a lot of advocacy work that we need to do on university and college campuses — meeting with administrators and faculty and helping them to understand the rise of antisemitism and anti-Zionism. We have concerns with anti-Israel student groups that are making statements that are anti-Jewish,” he said.
“We are continuing to ask our elected officials for their support for those of them who are voting in favor of supporting Israel,” he said. “We are getting the message out to our allies and partners outside of the Jewish community about what’s happening and that keeping Hamas in power is the worst option for both Israelis and Palestinians in the region.
“In general, we need to raise our voices and speak the truth to anyone who we’re in contact with about this war,” Holtzman said. “There’s a ton of disinformation and misinformation that’s being spread, and it’s up to us as advocates of Israel, as members of the Jewish community, to correct the fallacies that are being spread on both social media and traditional media and on the streets of Philadelphia.”
One Jewish leader said that the lasting message since Oct. 7 should include compassion for the Palestinians.
“There are a lot of established decision-makers in the Jewish community who are choosing the critically important messages of bringing home the hostages and support for Israel but who, at times, are forgetting to include compassion for the Palestinians and for the Palestinian aspirations,” said Rabbi Jill Maderer of Reform Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia
“We need to prepare the message that was omitted, that we don’t leave out the needs of other groups,” Maderer said. “I do think the momentum and our focus will remain strong about all of this.”
Visit Jewishphilly.org and click Israel Emergency to donate to humanitarian needs in Israel.
Ellen Braunstein is a freelance writer.