Two stories from the Israeli frontline

Charles Moerdler, Esther Cohen of Riverdale share experiences about Hamas attack


At least two prominent residents of greater Riverdale who were directly affected by the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel have shared their stories with neighbors back home.

“Shortly after 6:30am, on Saturday, Oct. 7 my wife and I were awakened as my son Mark barged into the bedroom in which we slept in his Jerusalem home,” wrote Charles Moerdler, the Community Board 8 land use committee chair. “He crouched behind a wall and shouted, ‘lie down and stay down.’ I asked, ‘What’s happening?” Mark’s terrifying response was ‘Israel is being invaded.’”

Those were the first words Moerdler wrote in a letter he wrote to The Riverdale Press last weekend. He went on to explain how it had been almost 80 years since he had heard the shrill sirens followed by explosions that he did just outside Jerusalem. The last time was during the German Blitz in London during World War II.

“The passage of time has not completely erased an awful memory, one, it seems which may never be erased,” he wrote.

Soon after the initial attack and Israeli retaliation over the past week, Riverdale Y chief financial officer Esther Cohen shared her and her husband’s experience in Israel.

“I am sure you have all heard the news, read the multiple emails from UJA and JCCA,” Cohen wrote in a memo to Riverdale Y’s Jewish families. “There are no words to describe the events and emotions of this past week. We are thankfully physically safe, our shelter is stocked with three days worth of food and water as advised, but we are emotionally exhausted.

“The kids are home, the shelves in the stores are empty. The streets, parks and malls are eerily quiet, you don’t even hear cars honking which is very unusual here.”

She went on to share some terrible news though.

“Unfortunately, we started the week with some devastating news from my husband Gideon’s family, who live a mile from the border with Gaza,” she wrote. “One of his relatives was murdered leaving two young children to grow up without a mother. The children were miraculously saved and found near the Gaza border by security forces. Like other Israelis this hit close to home.”

The devastation became more evident for Cohen and her family when the rest of the week included paying respects to other people who had perished in the Hamas attacks.

“As the week unraveled, you realize that in this country everything feels personal and familial,” she said. “Last night I attended the funeral procession of two brothers, sons of a local Rabbi of our community as they were taken to Har Hertzel (the military cemetery).

“As I walked hugging my sister on one side and my friend on the other, I knew we all had the same thought. This needs to end for the sake of all those seeking peace and soon. All of us silently hoping that this happens before our sons get their ‘Tzav Rishon’ (First draft notice) which for us is next year.”

Cohen also shared how her family has helped her fellow neighbors in Israel.

“We spent this week like many other families in this country, trying to help in whatever way we can,” she said. “We bought supplies for our troops, my older boys went to help load boxes of food, water and supplies.”

She added that they wrote letters of support to soldiers.

“Right now my children and husband are all sitting tying tzizit for our troops (the 4 corner garment with strings that represent the awareness and responsibility to God),” she said.

Charles Moerdler, Esther Cohen, Riverale Y, Community Board 8, Israel, Hamas, Palestine, terrorist, attack, war, Abu Gosh Mosque, Mark Moerdler