Only two weeks after gathering in Seton Park in support of Israel and U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, even more SAR students and greater Riverdale community members joined tens of thousands of people on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Tuesday to stand against antisemitism and for freedom of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas terrorists.
The March for Israel was an opportunity for Americans to unite in solidarity and combat antisemitism. More than 290,000 people from around the country showed up to the rally.
The audience also included bipartisan congressional leaders, families of American hostages, college students united for Israel, interfaith allies and Natan Sharansky, an Israeli politician and Soviet dissident, human rights activist and author who spent nine years in Soviet prison.
“(It) will be an opportunity for all Americans to come together in solidarity with the people of Israel, to demonstrate our commitment to America’s most important ally in the Middle East, to condemn the rising trend of antisemitic violence and harassment, and to demand that every hostage be immediately and safely released,” the organization stated on its website marchforisrael.org.
The Modern Orthodox co-educational day schools in Riverdale — SAR Academy, and SAR High School — bused more than 1,000 students between the middle school and high school to the rally. The principals of the schools thought the rally would be important and enlightening for students.
“One of the things that I tell our students almost every day is that these days what you do matters, the things that you do whether it’s speaking out for things that you believe in or raising, you know, raising funds and raising awareness or learning about something and forming an opinion but the things that you did matter,” said Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, the academy principal.
“You know, what we’re trying to let them see is that a lot of individuals made a decision to pick up school and take off work and that will, I believe, be a very powerful experience for them to see that. You know, they’ll read about it. They’ll hear about it, they’ll know that they were part of it. And their voice matters, and I think it’s a really really important message for them.”
The rally meant a lot to those who participated. The SAR academy recommended that all of their students take part and celebrate their religion and heritage. With the war going on between Israel and Hamas, a former faculty member of the SAR Academy, Yossi Hershkovitz fell in battle in Gaza, defending his beloved Israel. The death of Hershkovitz was another motivating factor for the schools to attend the rally.
“The march is about unwavering support for Israel, it’s about a belief in democracy and love for Jews. People are coming from all over to the United States to be strong together,” said Rabbi Tully Harcsztark, principal of SAR high school. “Americans want to be able to live and not be afraid of harassment here in the United States. We are supporting the state of Israel because we believe that it has the right to defend itself, and to me, this is an opportunity to stand on our own two feet. I think that this is a really once-in-a-generation opportunity to take a stand, I think it’s my duty to be there, as well as other Americans.”
The Riverdale community seems to be in strong support for the rally. In addition to the schools, more than 400 community members were bused to the U.S. Capitol to have their voices heard and stand for what they believe in.
Rabbi Scott Kalmikoff helped organize the logistics and travel for the rally. He discussed in a community meeting before the march what he hopes community members take away from it.
“I hope that when all of this is over, and we have celebrations and celebrate together, we’ll spread as much love as when we are in this situation that we’re in right now,” Kalmikoff said. “So we need to learn to love each other in the difficult times but also in the good times.
“And we should show our love for the Jewish people in the same way no matter when.”