Not surprisingly, we have witnessed plenty of individuals who have not only failed to sympathize with Israel and support its right to defend itself against terrorists, but in fact have applauded the brutal Hamas attack against Israel.
Hordes of college students who join marches on campuses condemning Israel and supporting the Hamas terrorists …. Democratic Socialists of America members expressing their unwavering support for the unprovoked attack on Israeli civilians by Hamas … hateful individuals brandishing Nazi swastikas at a pro-Palestinian march in New York City and on a freeway overpass in Irvine, CA.
Of course, we’ve witnessed the usual even-handed response from college administrators and other leaders of organizations who sympathize with Israel’s losses, but at the same time will also make sure to mention the plight of the Palestinians in the same sentence.
But that’s not what I want to talk about today.
Instead, I want to focus on the kindness of strangers that I have been privileged to hear about since the war began. Amidst the darkness of the past few weeks has been a plethora of stories of sympathy and support from non-Jewish sources, which has been extremely gratifying to me and to others who have been the recipients of such messages.
Beldotti’s Bakery in Stamford is owned by an Italian family who has worked with our local Orthodox rabbis for decades making sure their bakery is strictly kosher so they can serve the Jewish community. A couple of days after the war broke out, Chris and Mike Beldotti baked special blue and white cookies in support of Israel — and donated all proceeds to the special Israel fund organized by our local Federation. Unbelievable!
Pete Kalminides, a Greek police officer who has a long relationship with the folks at Schoke Jewish Family Services in Stamford, sent the JFS director the following note after the Hamas attack: “Hello, my friend. I am thinking and praying for you, your beloved family, as well as all those you love and care for here at home and in Israel. If you need anything and I can help, please don’t hesitate to ask. Even if you just want to talk. Please be well, my friend. God bless.” Incredible!
Julio’s Fruit Boutique is a small Italian-owned fruit and vegetable store in Teaneck, NJ, that has catered to the Jewish community for close to 50 years. The owners donated $1,000 to Hatzalah as a gesture of support for Israel’s war on terror. Amazing!
Kim Colletto of Break Thru Fitness sent one of her Jewish clients the following message: “Tom and I feel we need to do more. Offering free krav maga for kids, teens, and adults. Not promoting this widely for fear that people will think I’m trying to promote the biz. Please let me know if you know anyone who will benefit. We don’t care how many people. Everyone is welcome.”
A lone soldier from England was murdered by Hamas defending the kibbutz that was attacked. He was a friend of someone who grew up in Stamford. A Christian stranger contacted the family, asking if he could do something to elevate the soul of the soldier who he had heard was murdered. He wrote out a check to Chabad of Stamford’s Israel Appeal for $400, with a note stating that he “stands among the mourners of Zion and wishes comfort for the soldier’s family and all of Am Yisrael.” He also plans to make an additional monthly donation to Friends of the IDF in support of Israel. Remarkable!
A doctor in Stamford told me that she was in the hospital and was approached by a stranger, who asked if she had friends or relatives in Israel. The stranger said that as a member of a minority group, she understood what we were experiencing as a people and the importance of standing together with the Jewish community at this difficult time. The doctor also added that a Nigerian colleague told her that her entire church “prays for you guys” and another Indian colleague of hers told her that “we are with you.”
We had an Israel rally and flag raising ceremony in Stamford this past week. A member of our shul who was there told me that she was surprised to see her non-Jewish neighbor in attendance. “Of course, I am here to support you,” she said. “What happened In Israel is horrible, and I wanted to show the members of the Jewish community that they are not alone.”
Another member of our shul told me that two Italian friends of hers asked if they could attend the local flag raising ceremony with her. That alone was extremely meaningful to her, but what really made an impact was when they both asked her to give them a Bring Our Hostages Home sign that they could each place on their front lawns. Wow!
There is a Muslim woman in town who supports Israel. She was the first person to let one of our congregants at our shul know what had happened Saturday morning. As a Muslim, she was very worried, especially since some folks were giving her a hard time after she made comments defending Israel on social media. But she would not back down. She even offered to donate some of her hard-earned money to help Israel.
There was a communitywide rally sponsored by all synagogues and Jewish organizations in Stamford on the Tuesday after the massacre. Two women who were seated next to each other spotted their non-Jewish neighbor in the crowd, sitting a couple of rows in front of them. They left their seats to greet her, and the three of them collapsed into a group hug, crying and holding each other. The woman said, “Of course I would be here. We are all brothers and sisters.”
One woman in Stamford who has been actively involved in pro-Israel activities told me she has a wealthy non-Jewish friend who has donated $11 million to 10 worthy charities supporting Israel during this crisis. He is also actively involved in the group of 40 CEOs who plan to blacklist all the Harvard students who signed the anti-Israel petition. She also hired a non-Jewish au pair many years ago; she now lives in Berlin and reached out to my friend expressing her sympathy and support. In addition, her friend from South Africa – who understands the deep impact of terror and violence – reached out to her after the attack by Hamas.
In the play “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the final words of the main character, Blanche duBois, are: “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” The Jewish community historically has never been able to rely on such kindness, but this past two weeks we have seen incredible acts of kindness displayed from the unlikeliest of sources. Let’s hope it will continue.