Samuel Stern
Rabbi in the heartland of the USA

What INN and JVP Have Forgotten

View of the YMCA, in Jerusalem, Israel

October 7th was supposed to be a day of great rejoicing for Jewish people around the world. It was the holiday of Simchat Torah, the last holiday in our season of major holidays and festivals. What occurred in Israel that day was a massacre the likes of which the Western world has never seen. Many of us here in Topeka, who otherwise would have been dancing and singing, were glued to the horrible news out of Israel. There are so few Jews in the world that here in Topeka, over 6,000 miles away from Israel, there is almost no one who does not have a friend or family member or know of someone directly impacted by the tragic Hamas terrorist attack.

There are very few Jewish people in the world. In Topeka we are 0.2% of the population. In America 2-3%, in the world also it is 0.2%. We strive to contribute to our communities and the world, acting as healers and innovators for the benefit of humanity. Yet so often, in every land but America (Baruch HaShem, thank God), we have been persecuted, blamed, exiled, and murdered for being different.

You may be familiar with the details of the barbarous terrorist attack, but if not, please bear witness: over 1,400 innocent Israeli civilians murdered. Over 200 captives were taken to the Gaza Strip. At least 22 Americans were murdered, as well as people of over 20 nationalities, with many also taken hostage. People were burned alive in their homes, babies mutilated, and children tortured in front of their parents. The worst slaughter of Jews since the end of the Holocaust.

We are grateful for all declarations of sympathy. Justice, however, demands more. We call for the liberation of the Gaza Strip from the rule of Hamas terrorists. For too long, the world has allowed these terrorists to rule the lives of the people of Gaza and attack the people of Israel. It must not be allowed to stand for another minute. Good people all over the world, from Topeka and Washington to London and Berlin to Riyadh and Cairo, must declare that the time has come for the brutal regime of Hamas to end and to support the Israel Defense Forces in the war to free Gaza from Hamas.

I pray for the swift release of the hostages and for justice to be visited swiftly upon our persecutors and the enemies of peaceful coexistence. As it says in our scripture in the book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), “There is a time for war, and a time for peace.” Let the time of war be short and successful so that we may earn the time of peace.

About the Author
Samuel Stern is the rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom of Topeka, Kansas. Ordained by HUC-JIR in Los Angeles in 2021, Rabbi Stern has participated in numerous fellowships, including with AIPAC, the One America Movement, and the Shalom Hartman Institute, and has been published in the quarterly journal of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
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