As a reaction to Saturday’s attack on scores of Israeli civilians near the Gaza Strip by the terrorist group Hamas, Rowan’s chapter of Chabad, a world-renowned Jewish organization, created a “rally of solidarity” in front of Bozorth Hall at Memorial Circle on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 10. This past week’s events happening in Israel prompted some in the community to take action. Students gathered to show their support.
Madison Rappaport is a senior at Rowan and student president of Chabad.
“I’m here to show my support, and to be here for my community, for my club, everyone suffering and hurting and to support my family in Israel and my family here and friends in Israel,” said Rappaport.
Students and attendees listened to speakers who spoke of their time in Israel, and their support and testimonials for the Jewish State. Students shared the people they were praying for at the circle, with many testifying that their family and friends were on the front lines of battle or were civilians fearing for their lives.
Faculty also attended to offer their support by letting students know it is okay to share that you’re not okay when people ask how you’re doing, and sharing with others is what makes us human.
“And I think for me being Jewish… we definitely don’t have to all agree about the right way to live, the lifestyle to have, or the choices to make. But we try to live together anyway, we live in unity anyway,” said Naomi Broner, a Wellness Center employee. “And we have relationships anyway, despite those differences or because of those differences. We create relationships because we each have something to offer the other person because of those differences.”
Broner also recited from an Iranian thinker that there is this addiction to sameness in the Western world that we don’t need to conform to and should rather embrace each other’s differences. We’re not forced to live under the same umbrella with the same mindset, but we should figure out how to coexist and build relationships across boundaries that sometimes look like obstacles.
“We don’t need to all agree, we just need to all be able to talk, communicate, listen,” said Broner.
“When they say things like, ‘This is part of an ongoing cycle of violence,’ that’s really unfair. And that’s really anti-semitic because it’s never just part of an ongoing cycle of violence to kill,” said Broner. “There’s a time for every group to have a voice. But maybe now is a time for people to show support for Israel.”
Attendees were wondering what they could do to continue to show their support. Chabad’s Rabbi Hersh Loschak provided an answer.
“Reach out to people to try to educate. You’re not going to get into a confrontation of course, but try to get in contact with what’s going on and spread awareness about it on your social media, pages with friends, etcetera,” Hersh continued by saying, “We need the battlefront in the physical army, but we also have the spiritual army to try to make an impact on the world.”
Rowan students also participated in wrapping tefillin, which are made up of leather that wraps around the arms to signify an outward sign of religious faith and keep the wearer safe. The gatherers also laid out a Star of David made up of candles in the middle of Memorial Circle over the Rowan University torch seal emblem.
“I think what we need to do as a community is make people aware of what’s going on in Israel,” said Kevin Jenner, a junior and member of Rowan’s Hillel. “This is not an example of war, this is terrorism.”
Attendees encouraged each other to show support for the State of Israel by connecting with each other and sharing information, and encouraging empathetic conversation about a crime against human rights that, as the organizers put it, has often been overshadowed by narrative-driven journalism and prejudice.
“This is not just… like the Middle East conflict. This is acts of war, acts of terror, perpetrated for no reason. And they’re killing innocent people. And not just killing— beheading,” Rabbi Hersh Loschak said. “These are not people that are just trying to free their land, they’re people that are out to kill and hurt innocent men, women, children, elderly, anybody they see. Anybody that’s Jewish, because they’re Jewish.”
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