SAR Academy, local electeds pray for Israel

900-plus students, faculty and staff joined in a Tefilot prayer on steps of school


Following the Hamas attack on Israel, many feared last week whether they should send their children to school or not. At SAR Academy, however, more than 900 students, faculty, and staff joined in a Tefilot “On The Steps” prayer service for the people of Israel.

“Today, a day that some people thought we shouldn’t come to school, we are so grateful to the NYPD and our local leadership,” said SAR Academy principal and rabbi Binyamin Krauss on Oct. 13. “Never before have we gathered on these steps five days in a row. But never before has there been a week, unfortunately, like this week.”

As of Tuesday, the Israel death toll is more than 1,400 and in Palestine more than 3,000. While Israel itself may be distant, it couldn’t be any closer to greater Riverdale, which has a large population of Jewish students and families. Several people have family members who were injured or died from the Hamas attacks.

With the attacks across the globe also came the concern that antisemtism acts would rise in the United States and New York City, which has the largest population of Jewish people outside of Israel itself. As a result police presence and security was heightened across synagogues and Jewish institutions, including SAR Academy and SAR High School.

Despite the fear, the academy’s principal and students, alongside U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, and Borough president Vanessa Gibson stood together, arms linked around their shoulders in solidarity with the people of Israel.

“Every single person in this world matters deeply,” Krauss said. “And that’s what we’re fighting for, that’s what our (soldiers) are fighting for. That’s what Midaat Israel is fighting for and that’s what the world is fighting for.”

Krauss shared a clip from the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he was in Israel on Oct. 12.

“The people of Israel have long and rightly prided themselves on their self-reliance, on their ability to defend themselves even when the odds are stacked against them,” Blinken said. “The message that I bring to Israel is this: you may be strong enough on your own to defend yourself, but as long as America exists you will never ever have to. We will always be there by your side.”

The principal said the elected officials, who had spent the week sharing support and solidarity with Midaat Israel, called him and said they wanted to be part of the Tefilot prayers. The elected officials took turns reading prayers. Midaat is a non-profit committed to advancing public health.

“I rushed back from DC so that I could be with you,” Torres said. “And I just want to say although I’m only one person, you know, I see you, I hear you, I love you. I will have your back and please know that despite this dark moment Israel will live on and it has the support of the United States and we’re all going to emerge better and stronger from this moment of darkness, this moment of adversity.”

The borough president read a prayer for Israel Defense Forces triumphing over their enemies.

“We reject hate,” Gibson said. “We reject terrorism. We reject antisemitism. We stand together in love, in peace, and in unity. We are mourning the loss of so many of our brothers and sisters in Israel, children, families, mothers and fathers, grandparents, who were brutalized and assaulted. We reject this violence and we reject this hate. We will continue to pray for our people. We will continue to stand and support the state of Israel right here in the Bronx.”

Clark spoke about how it was devastating to have to have six prayers in a row, but sees hope in the students.

“I know that it’s so bleak and so devastating as to what is happening,” Clark said. “But as I look out in your faces I see the hope for the world. I see the hope. You are the light and solution that this world needs, not only in the Bronx, not only in the U.S., but also in Israel. You are the answer, young people. Just know that in spite of all that is happening, these terrorists will never win because you are here to make sure that they won’t.”

Several teachers and parents of students at SAR Academy got on planes to Israel to serve in the IDF. One of those teachers who left on Oct. 10 sent a video from Israel.

“To the SAR community and family, thank you for everything,” the teacher said in Hebrew. “We feel SAR’s support and the support of all the United States from all the way here. And we are here, we are prepared and we are strong. The whole army is ready. The whole state of Israel is ready. All Jews are ready. To the children, thank you for your prayers. With God’s help, we are strong and we will win.”

How is the NYPD heightening security?

If you’ve walked in or past Jewish institutions over the past week you likely noticed the heightened security of police from the 50th Precinct or barriers barring easy entry. This is a response to the attack on Israel and to ward off any potential antisemitic activity.

“The NYPD’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Bureau deploys a wide array of resources to protect the city based on events unfolding here and around the world,” a DCPI spokesperson stated. “This includes high-visibility resources like the Critical Response Command and Counterterrorism officers, as well as our Intelligence Division personnel. Given the situation unfolding in Israel, we have surged responses to sensitive locations out of an abundance of caution and to ensure that all New Yorkers stay safe.”

In addition to security in physical locations, the NYPD is also monitoring online sites and social media for potential “lone wolves” who are radicalized online.

“If someone is hanging around a synagogue or you see someone within the community that is suspicious, see something, say something, do something,” Mayor Eric Adams said on Oct. 10. “This is an important time. If you have a law enforcement person who’s assigned to your synagogue or attend your synagogue, they should be positioning enough to observe what’s going on inside.

“This is really an opportunity, we have to be high alert. We cannot let our guards down. We cannot believe that it happened thousands of miles away in Israel, we’re the largest Jewish population outside of Israel.”

SAR Academy, Israel, Palestine, Hamas, terrorist, Jewish, Binyamin Krauss, Ritchie Torres, Darcel Clark, Vanessa Gibson