Christians Rally for the Jewish People
The crowd waved and danced with Israeli flags and cheered speakers who pledged their love and support for Israel and spoke glowingly of the need to protect the Jewish people and their homeland.
This was not a synagogue or Jewish organization’s rally, but rather was held at the Abundant Life Family Worship Church in New Brunswick and the vast majority of the approximately 460 attendees at the March 12 program were Christians.
With a huge, illuminated banner across the stage proclaiming, “New Jersey Celebrates Israel,” representatives of Israel and the Jewish and Christian communities were loudly cheered.
“Israel and the Jewish people have given the world hope,” proclaimed Bishop Robert Stearns, founder and executive director of Eagles’ Wings, an organization dedicated to advancing the biblical mandates to build bridges, renew the importance of spiritual community and pray for a just and lasting peace for Jerusalem.
Among its initiatives is organizing Christian missions to Israel and operating Abraham’s Bread feeding stations there to feed impoverished Israelis.
Stearns, who asked the audience to stand while he sang Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, spoke about the courage displayed by the Jewish people, who despite centuries of exile, hatred and violence, much of it at the hands of Christians, still live.
“All of a sudden we have these Christians extending the hand of friendship,” he said. “We are here to say there is a new breed of Christian that is saying never again—you will not stand alone.
“In the face of rising antisemitism, we will not be silent.”
Dan Rozett, manager of Israel and community engagement at the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, drew sustained applause when he declared Israel to be an amazing place and leader in agriculture, medicine, technology and more and that he is proud to be Jewish.
“I cherish the unbreakable bond with Israel and, of course, the modern state of Israel,” said Rozett. He added that he went to Israel to serve in the Israel Defense Forces in Lebanon and participated in numerous defense tactics to prevent attacks on Israelis, returning to the United States 20 years later.
Rozett said at a time when Israel is delegitimized and demonized and when antisemitism has risen to record levels, Israel relies on those outside the Jewish community, such as Eagles’ Wings, for vital support, calling the organization “true and trusted allies.”
Chad Martin, the northeast director of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, told the gathering Israel is “a special place,” where the Bible’s pages leap from black and white to full color, calling it “the most inspiring place you will ever visit in the world.”
Continuing on that theme, Israeli Consul General in New York Asaf Zamir, a former deputy mayor of Tel Aviv and a ninth generation Israeli, reminded the crowd that the U.S. and Israel “are the best of friends” based on shared history and values and that the historical bipartisan support Israel has enjoyed from America is vital. The support from friends like Eagles’ Wings has helped ensure that support remains strong through its positive message.
“It’s very toxic out there,” said Zamir. “It is very full of hate and it’s very hard to share the light. Ultimately, there is more good than bad, and there is much more that brings us together than what divides us. We are very lucky in Israel we have you to speak for us.”
Indeed, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, the executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, said he believed when G-d looks out at the multi-racial and multi-religious crowd and “sees how we’re all together, the Messiah will appear.”
“Israel is not just about the dead, it is about the living,” Potasnik said. “Thank G-d we have people like you and all the others who raise their voices. May we continue being together. We may be of different faiths, but we are people together.”
Rabbi Erica Gerson spoke about the increase in antisemitism not seen “since the rise of Hitler.”
“Let me be clear: Anti-Zionism is not activism,” she said. “It is not social justice. It’s hatred. The obsession with the one Jewish country’s right to exist; that is Jew hatred, and we won’t stand for it.”
Gerson is the co-founder of African Mission Healthcare Foundation with her husband, Mark, known as the “rabbi’s husband,” leading the online Torah Tuesdays for Eagles’ Wings.
“Your blessing means so much to us,” said Rabbi Gerson, noting, “The Bible says ‘God blesses those who bless Israel.’”
As pastors and members of the Jewish community were invited to join in a glatt kosher dinner as most of the crowd filed out, Kenyani Henderson of Linden said she came “to unite with my Jewish friends, dance, worship and celebrate Israel.”
Nakhayla Green of West Orange said she came to support the organization’s message while “embracing other people.”
At the time of publication, Asaf Zamir resigned as consul general in protest of the situation in Israel.
Debra Rubin has had a long career in journalism writing for secular weekly daily newspapers and Jewish publications. She most recently served as Middlesex/Monmouth bureau chief for the New Jersey Jewish News. She also worked with the media at several nonprofits, including serving as assistant public relations director of HIAS and assistant director of media relations at Yeshiva University.