As many political and religious leaders said in the wake of Hamas’ attack on Israel Oct. 7, what happened was a tragedy. It was important to have moral clarity on that.
Jews in the Philadelphia area did.
In the days following the rampage that killed more than 1,400 Israelis, local Jews rallied and donated money. They communicated with each other and law enforcement about protecting themselves and their spaces. It was a comprehensive response that likely started when everyone looked up from their phones that Saturday morning.
It was met with a response from pro-Palestine marchers.
On Oct. 8, Rabbi Gregory Marx of Congregation Beth Or in Maple Glen decided to gather his members in their sanctuary. Five-hundred people showed up. That big event was followed by nightly minyans throughout the week.
People just needed to be together, Marx explained.
“People are afraid. People have a lot of questions like, ‘What’s tomorrow going to look like?’” the rabbi said. “It felt to me very much like 9/11. What’s our next step? What’s Israel going to look like next week?”
They said prayers. They talked.
Similar gatherings took place around the region. The Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey held one at Temple Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel (Elkins Park) and other synagogues did, too.
Reconstructing Judaism hosted a virtual prayer gathering in which 200 people took part. The Philadelphia City Council introduced a resolution condemning the Hamas attacks. The Philadelphia Phillies held a moment of silence for Israel before their National League Division Series playoff game against the Atlanta Braves on Oct. 11. Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook’s CookNSolo restaurant group, known for its Israeli restaurants, donated 100% of its sales on Oct. 12 to an organization providing free medical services in Israel, according to PhillyVoice.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia organized a gathering on Oct. 9. More than 1,000 people attended and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, who is Jewish, spoke. The Federation also held a March for Israel a week later.
The gatherings and rallies seem to have subsided for now. But synagogues are still holding regularly scheduled programming at which the most important Jewish topic of the day will likely be processed further.
Ways to Donate
Do you live in the five-county Philadelphia area on the PA side? Do you live in the Cherry Hill area? What about northern Delaware?
Wherever you reside as a Jewish person, your federation is raising money. Check its website.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has already raised almost $2 million for medicine, diapers, formula, water and other necessities, according to Jason Holtzman, the director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. It is organizing donations and aid through the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israel Trauma Coalition.
Other organizations raising money include Magen David Adom in Israel, Hadassah and The Association for Israel’s Soldiers. Magen David Adom manages hospitals, “trains nurses” and “organizes clinics for collection of blood donation,” among other duties, according to its website. Hadassah is a women’s organization that tries to meet the challenges of each generation, including funding hospitals, according to its website. The Association for Israel’s Soldiers contributes money to Israeli soldiers, according to ufis.org.
On Oct. 8, a day after the attack, Palestinians held an “emergency solidarity rally” in Rittenhouse Square. “Dozens” of people attended, according to CBS News Philadelphia.
“People are against genocide until it comes to Palestine!” one speaker said.
Andrew Goretsky, the regional director of Anti-Defamation League Philadelphia, said, “We know from the last Israel-Gaza conflict that incidents that happen there often lead to a rise in antisemitism here.” Goretsky reached out to the Philadelphia Police Department to ask officers to keep eyes on Jewish spaces.
He said the response was “very favorable.” Goretsky and his team are also monitoring online activity.
“That’s where we’re at at this moment,” he said.