Sharona Durry: Israeli American Works to Help Her Homeland During this Time

Sharona Durry (Photo by Ayala Cnaan)

Sharona Durry, 57, moved from her native Israel to the United States when she was 22. Durry came to take over her position as an after-school coordinator with the Perelman Jewish Day School. 

But then Durry married an American and stayed. Later, she got remarried and had a son, Jordan David James. The Israeli created her charitable nonprofit organization, Philly Israel, to connect her son to her native land. In 2010, she helped open the Israeli American Council’s Philadelphia office. After two years, she moved on to transform Philly Israel into Philly Israel Productions, which booked Israeli speakers and entertainers for Philadelphia and South Jersey audiences.  

Durry has been an American Jew for more than three decades. But she has continued to devote her activities to the Jewish state. And in the wake of Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7, she has only increased those activities. 

The Bala Cynwyd resident worked with 11 other organizers to plan the rally against antisemitism at Congregation Rodeph Shalom on Dec. 10. She said part of the goal of the event was to make sure that all Jews felt welcome. 

“Orthodox, Conservative, Reform. Israelis that have never been to synagogue,” she said. 

Durry was supposed to sing “Hatikvah” at the rally, but Orthodox leaders had to object. She was a woman. 

“There’s a rule that a voice of a woman should not be heard by religious men,” Durry said. “So, we pulled myself out of the program.”

They worked it out. Durry kept reminding everyone that it was worth it. At the rally, hundreds of Jews from all denominations packed the sanctuary. High-ranking politicians, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, criticized recent acts of antisemitism in the city. 

“This is the only way that it will work. We need each other. We need to show the world that we’re united. There’s no other way. If we’re not united, it creates so much chaos outside of us,” Durry said. “When we are strong and we fight together, we can go and move and shake things. And that’s what we’re trying to do. It’s urgent.”

Every Sunday, Durry and a group of Israeli Americans and American Jews go on runs or walks to raise awareness of the hostages still under Hamas’ control. They hold up posters with biographical information. On Dec. 17, they walked in Center City.

“We’re not going to stop walking and running. We keep doing it every Sunday. We’re not going to rest until we bring them back home,” Durry said.

On Dec. 5, former University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill testified about campus antisemitism to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Workforce and Education. Magill said calls for the genocide of Jews at Penn may or may not have violated the school’s code of conduct. The president further added that it was a “context-dependent decision.”

Durry and other Jews responded by protesting outside of Magill’s office. Four days after her testimony, Magill stepped down from her position. 

Durry and her fellow Israelis and Americans are also putting posters of the hostages up all over the city and suburbs, sending packages to Israeli soldiers and hosting Israelis that have been displaced by the war. The Bala Cynwyd resident herself hosted a couple for one night from Kerem Shalom, a kibbutz on the border with Gaza. They were in the U.S. to speak at the Kaiserman JCC and other locations. 

The couple told Durry they are trying to take it one day at a time. They also said they see all the love, care and support they are getting from Americans. At the same time, they explained to her that it would be hard to understand their experience unless someone had gone through it themselves. 

Durry dropped a water bottle on the floor at one point. The woman “jumped up so high,” she said. 

The next day, Durry got together with 12 other women, including an Israeli artist in Philadelphia, Orna Willis. She designs jewelry from beads, according to Durry. Another couple donated money to buy the beads. The proceeds will go to Kerem Shalom.

“We’re going to be strong. We’re going to stand up for ourselves against antisemitism,” Durry said. “We’re going to defend ourselves, defend our people, defend Israel.”

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