Taking a day off of work and spending twelve hours of my day driving is not something I tend to do easily. Nether is flying across the United States. But this week, I, and hundreds of thousands of Jews, dropped everything and came to the National Mall in Washington DC. We did it for one and only one reason: to stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel. Yet, to our surprise, that was not the only thing we came home with. Yes, we stood with families of those kidnapped to Gaza, and we also let Washington know how strong our support for Israel is. Yet, as American Jews left that rally to go home, we also realized we have each other.
The extent to which antisemitism has spiked in America since October 7th has shocked even the most pessimistic among us. American Jews have been feeling increasingly isolated, targeted, abandoned, ostracized, and outright betrayed by so many whom we thought would stand with us in our time of peril. Yet as we all gathered there in the National Mall, we looked around, and we saw one another in real life. We saw the Hasidic Jews, the reform Jews, Chabad Rabbis, young old, people pushing strollers, those who came with wheelchairs, Sephardic, Mizrachi, Ashkenazi, left-wing Jews, right-wing Jews, apolitical Jews, as well as non-Jews who came to show solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people.
We stood there singing with Ishay Ribbo, Omer Adam, the Maccabeats, and Matisyahu. We wept together with mothers whose sons were taken hostage to Gaza. We saw our younger generation of proud Jewish students from college campuses who refused to cower or bow their heads even in the face of virulent antisemitism on campus. Our eyes welled up when we saw President Herzog speaking to us from the Western Wall, vowing to rebuild and reminding us of what brings us together. We listened with respect and dignity to members of both political parties, even if it was not our side of politics. We did not let this beautiful show of solidarity to get hijacked by any extremists in our community. We sounded a responsible, unified voice, demanding unequivocally the return of hostages back to Israel.
The signs in the rally included “Boston stands with Israel,” “Seattle stands with Israel”, “Dallas stands with Israel”, “Minnesota stands with Israel,” and so many others. Suddenly, we saw one another in real life. We realize, as Debra Messing so brilliantly said that we have one another and how important that is. We did not only attend this rally together, we came and left to this rally together. We saw one another in buses, trains, airplanes, cars, vans, rest stops, the DC metro, and beyond. We shmoozed, smiled, connected, or just saw one another and knew that we were not alone.
A primary goal of hate speech and bullying is to isolate the victim. Indeed over the past few weeks, American Jews have felt increasingly isolated. Standing with 290,000 people in the National Mall has the opposite impact. It was the greatest gathering of American Jews in history. Going forward, American Jews know that we must be there for one another. We must get together with one another more often, and we must do more to overcome our internal differences. In the National Mall in Washington, we found one another. No matter what comes next for American Jews, we will stand together.