Approximately 1,000 people expressed support for Israel while attending “One People, One Heart: Solidarity with Israel,” a community event held Nov. 19 at Sinai Temple in Westwood.
At the Sunday evening gathering in Sinai’s Ziegler Sanctuary, participants included Sinai Temple Co-Senior Rabbis Erez Sherman and Nicole Guzik; Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles CEO and President Rabbi Noah Farkas; Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Israel Bachar; State Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel; 14-year-old Ela Shani, an Israeli survivor of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel; and Pastor John-Paul Foster of Faithful Central Bible Church.
Sinai Temple and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles co-organized the program.
More than 40 days after the attack on Israel, when Hamas infiltrated Israel’s border and massacred more than 1,200 Israeli civilians and kidnapped approximately 240 people, the community was struggling with how to keep the tragedy in their hearts and minds while continuing with day-to-day life, said Farkas of the Federation.
“It has to be part of our everyday, but it can’t consume our everyday,” he said.
Farkas highlighted the L.A. Federation’s robust response to the October attack, saying the L.A. Federation raised $31 million in direct Israel support since Oct. 7. Jewish Federations of North America ( JFNA), the umbrella organization for Jewish Federations, has raised $660 million since Oct. 7. Farkas highlighted the work of JFNA Board Chair
Julie Platt and L.A. Federation Chair Orna Wolens, both seated in the audience at Sinai. The event followed the Nov. 14 “March for Israel” in Washington D.C., an unprecedented showing of pro-Israel pride drawing an estimated 300,000 people. The Sinai gathering, while decidedly smaller, attempted to build on the momentum of the D.C. event, with Bachar, the consul general, saying, “We will win this war with our moral clarity intact.” Shani, the 14-year-old survivor of the Oct. 7 massacre, appeared in person. Shani, who previously spoke to the Courier for the newspaper’s Nov. 17 edition, shared her story of what it was like at Kibbutz Be’eri on that fateful, tragic day, when her father was killed by terrorists, and her cousin, Amit was taken back to Gaza by Hamas as a hostage. Amit, she said, spent his 16th birthday in captivity.
She asked the audience to continue advocating for the release of the hostages, who were taken by members of an organization, Hamas, completely divorced from basic humanitarian ideas. The terrorists of Hamas, the young Israeli woman said, “don’t care about anything except killing Jews.”
Gabriel, who represents much of the San Fernando Valley in the state’s legislature, spoke of the recent convention of the California Democratic Party, which, as widely reported, was overrun by anti-Israel protestors. The convention, Gabriel said, “melted down,” with all programming on Nov. 18 canceled after demonstrators breached the convention venue’s lobby in Sacramento.
Despite recent events in Israel, anti-Israel rallies across the globe and the unprecedented spike in nationwide antisemitism, “We are an incredibly strong and resilient people,” Gabriel said.
Since Oct. 7, antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric has been rampant on many college and high school campuses. Addressing that issue, student leaders appeared at Sinai, including Tessa Veksler, president of associated students at UC Santa Barbara, and Leah Tehrani of Palisades Charter High School.
“Being an Israeli should not be a death sentence, and being a Jewish college student should not be a safety hazard—and yet it is,” Veksler said.
Additional speakers included Rev. Johnnie Moore, president of Congress of Christian Leaders. Referring to last month’s attack on Israel as a “pogrom,” he called for leaders to unequivocally condemn anti-Jewish hatred.
“We are here to be counted among those who will continue to speak with moral clarity about the pogrom that happened in Israel on Oct. 7. We are here to be counted among those who will stare down the dark demons of antisemitism wherever they emerge,” Moore said. “We will not let history’s oldest hate embed itself in the algorithm of our American life.”
Along with remarks from numerous speakers, the event, which also streamed online, included tuneful moments. Musicians and cantors from across Southern California, including Sinai Temple Cantor Marcus Feldman and performer Craig Taubman, led a prayer for Israel. And the evening kicked off with the school choir from Shalhevet High School singing Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah.”