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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Riverdalians rally for Israel

By Shant Shahrigian
Posted
Masao Katagami/The Riverdale Press
Many Parents brought children to a pro-Israel rally Sunday at Seton Park. Speakers including politicians and rabbis emphasized Riverdale's ties to Israel as the country remains in conflict with Gaza.
Masao Katagami/The Riverdale Press
An estimated 200 people came to the rally.
Masao Katagami/The Riverdale Press
Dr. Sherrell Najman chants her support.
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At the end of a Sunday rally at Seton Park to show support for Israel, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale’s (HIR) Rabbi Steven Exler called on demonstrators to sing the Israeli national anthem. Many of the roughly 200 attendees appeared to sing “Hatikvah” by heart as children waved small Israeli flags on the humid afternoon. 

Throughout the rally, organized by 10 Jewish institutions active here, local rabbis and elected officials stressed the community’s ties to Israel.

“We stand united as a community, not just in our individual houses of worship, not just in our individual communal spaces, but as a greater Riverdale community,” Rabbi Exler said before leading the group in chanting, “We stand with Israel.”

The area’s elected officials touted their efforts to help Israel, which has dominated international headlines since launching an intense military operation in the Palestinian-populated Gaza Strip amid rocket attacks from Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group.

Riverdale’s Rep. Eliot Engel promised that Congress will keep Israel the top recipient of U.S. foreign aid and continue support for Iron Dome, a system that intercepts missiles fired into Israel.

“Support for Israel in the war against Gaza in the United States Congress is strong and it’s bipartisan, and that’s the way it should be,” Mr. Engel said to applause.

State Sen. Jeff Klein pointed to a bill he proposed earlier this year aimed at fighting a controversial boycott on Israel by the American Studies Association.

“We as American Jews have to remember the importance of having our own Jewish homeland,” Mr. Klein said. “We have to make sure that Israel remains strong.”

Between the politicians’ speeches, Rabbi Exler and Rabbi Barry Dov Katz of the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale led attendees in songs and prayers.

Many of the demonstrators said they had close personal ties to Israel, where nearly 56 people had died as of Tuesday morning, according to a tally kept by The New York Times. The newspaper reported 1,100 Palestinian deaths since the Israeli offensive began on July 8.

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