I really should be very happy. I’ve been writing and screaming from the hilltops for years that the established Jewish organizations need to do what they are supposed to do and organize a massive rally to support Israel and react to the anti-Semitism plaguing us these days. The silence of these organizations was a disgrace and undermined the need for Jews to respond to the hatred coming from the Congress, college campuses, in the streets, BLM – and yes, from some of our own Jews.
Finally, a rally was put together for last Sunday, July 11, in Washington, DC. Free buses were offered from throughout the Northeast – courtesy of, I believe, the UJA. The gathering was titled “The No-Fear Rally” and was sponsored by just about every mainstream Jewish organization, including the Orthodox. Speakers were from across the Jewish spectrum (not including, thankfully, extreme anti-Israel leftists like J Street or Teruah).
The main organizer was a woman named Melissa Landa, PhD, whom I do not know personally but we did exchange emails. She deserves one big “yasher koach!” for her Herculean effort in making this rally a reality.
For full disclosure, unfortunately, I could not attend the rally for personal reasons. We did, however, have a number of people from our shul attend.
So why am I not thrilled? Essentially, the chief purpose of a rally is to attract attention and sympathy for your cause. Most often, noise and violence, crazy as it sounds, gets the most sympathy from the media and therefore the public. We Jews are not violent, and we don’t know how to be violent, so we need to compensate with huge numbers instead. And that did not happen.
At best, it seems that about 3,000 people attended. This despite free transportation, and a weather-friendly Sunday during the Nine Days, leaving not much else to do. The speakers were excited, and some were quite good. But if you didn’t look for it, you could hardly detect a word in the broadcast and print media. A tree fell in the forest, yet no one heard it.
Why was the attendance so sparse? I heard all kinds of different reasons offered, ranging from poor publicity, to too little too late. I have even heard that some did not attend because some of the organizations that were sponsors are leftists who helped instigate the current wave of anti-Semitism by supporting immigration of the very people who bring us harm on the streets and the campuses today. (I can’t argue with that.)
I think the true reason is apathy. Despite everything going on, we Jews have become too complacent. We will kvetch about the new wave of anti-Semitism, but we are not willing to do too much about it. We have families to tend, businesses to manage, yeshivos and shuls to support, and summer camps to worry about.
However, I think, after the summer, we need to make a very focused rally. The rally needs to be focused on today’s main source of anti-Semitism, coming from the leftist anti-Israel mob and the silence of their base. The rally should focus on the political complicity of the silent left as symbolized by Senate Majority Leader Charles (the Shomer Yisrael) Schumer and by the radical bible of the left, The New York Times.
Unfortunately, too many Jews are not willing to start up with their iconic leadership, but that is where true leadership is required. Rallies must be held in front of Schumer’s office in the city to wake up the Democrats into taking action against their haters in Congress, e.g., Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and AOC. A rally must be held in front of The Times to call out the outright hatred they have fomented against Israel and its Jewish supporters. As the liberals are always telling us, words have consequences.
There have been such rallies in the past, but they fizzled. We need the OU, the NCYI, and the Agudah to actually get together and bring thousands of adults and yeshivah kids to make an impression. The Agudah got together with the OU and even Satmar in the past in the streets of Manhattan; there is no reason why they cannot get together for this important cause. In addition, the Agudah was not shy to make a recent public proclamation against a candidate for mayor, whom they felt had made an anti-Semitic statement. Let them go public against those who are a constant threat to our survival. The NCYI should have no political discomfort in joining with either organization. Let’s do it!
We need to hear the giant oak come crashing down.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.