Home July 2024 Hope and a Connection to Israel Showcased by Federation

Hope and a Connection to Israel Showcased by Federation

The co-chairs of the Hatikvah—Stepping into Spring With Hope program, (L-R) are: Laurie Landy; Tammy Zimmerman and Brenda Tanzman.

Supporters of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey showcased both their hope and connection to Israel in its continued fight for the release of hostages taken by Hamas in a gathering in which they heard  of the challenges and hopes of Israelis.
    The Hatikvah—Stepping into Spring With Hope program brought together 130 to enjoy camaraderie, delicious food and hear from Tsach Saar, deputy consul general of Israel’s New York Consulate, and Sigal Kanotopsky, northeast regional director of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI).
     Federation Executive Director Susan Antman noted the significance of the community coming together in the hope for “a joyful, peaceful Jewish future” during the May 22 program held at the Monroe home of Sam and Laurie Landy. However, she also issued a warning, ”You can’t build a firehouse when a fire breaks out,” when speaking about the vital role Federation’s Israel campaign plays.
    Saar highlighted the double standard experienced by Israel on the world stage in its war with Hamas.
    “I don’t know any other country in the world where people doubt its right to exist,” he said. “It is unique to Israel and Israel is the only Jewish state in the world.”
    At the same time many of those same detractors are only focusing on Palestinian suffering and right to have their own state when both groups have lived in the region for centuries. Saar questioned why Jews were excluded from the equation.
    He emphasized that nothing justified the cruelty demonstrated by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 when 1,200 Israeli civilians were killed and about 250 were taken hostage. About 120 hostages are believed to remain.

Sigal Kanotopsky, northeast regional director of the Jewish Agency for Israel, spoke of her childhood journey to Israel from Ethiopia and the hope and resilience of Israelis and the Jewish community.

    “If people see this as resistance, they have a serious problem,” he said, pointing out that Israel left Gaza in 2005. “They have no real moral clarity.”
    Saar said protesters chanting “From the River to the Sea” don’t realize its true deadly meaning. The phrase comes from Hamas’ charter and is a call for a Palestinian state stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, wiping out Israel and its inhabitants.   
    Saar stressed “that not just Israel but all of us want to live in peace” but added, “Our people will make sure we eliminate Hamas so that this never happens again.”
    While he said the death of innocent Palestinians is unfortunate, Israel was doing everything in its power to preserve civilian lives in Gaza, but it is Hamas’ strategy to hide weapons in schools, hospitals and homes that has endangered them.
    “The death of innocent Palestinians is a tragedy, but we cherish life,” said Saar. “The leaders of Hamas glorify death.”  
    He also expressed appreciation for the bipartisan support Israel enjoys in the United States and said there was constant dialogue between the two countries, which share a common interest in wanting to contain terrorist threats in the Middle East, including the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon, who threaten global trade, have attacked American military bases and threaten to further destabilize the region.

Tsach Saar, deputy consul general of Israel’s New York
Consulate, said those who thought of the Oct. 7 terrorist attack as an act of resistance “have no moral clarity.”

    “No one is shouting ‘Death to America’ at a pro-Israel demonstration,” he added. “We have shared values and America stands with Israel.”
    Kanotopsky was born in Ethiopia and made aliyah with her family at age five after walking many weeks and losing a brother along the way.
    We  didn’t know it was dangerous,” she said and spoke of the many generations of Ethiopian Jews who dreamed of living in the Holy Land of Israel. “We had one hope, one destiny, one dream. My parents had this dream. My grandparents had this dream.”
    She talked about JAFI’s role in assisting olim who immigrate to Israel, its shluchim programs bringing emissaries abroad to serve Jewish communities and its Fund for Victims of Terror, which provides financial aid, psychological counseling, job retraining and other services to help terror victims rebuild their lives.
    The events of Oct. 7 “for the first time in my life” gave Kanotopsky an understanding “of what hope and resilience is all about” as Israelis rallied to support and defend their country. Her own husband left to go back to Israel to do his part in the IDF.
    But nothing brought home its true meaning more than a visit to one of the kibbutzes in the south attacked by the terrorists.
    “As soon as I entered the kibbutz I could smell death, “ said Kanotopsky. “It felt like entering a cemetery.”
    There standing by her burned out home she met a young woman wearing an army uniform who was the lone survivor in her family. The woman stressed the importance of continuing to smile and live, the perfect example of hope and resilience and the collective strength of the Jewish community.
    Kanotopsky concluded with, “Am Yisrael Chai.”

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.



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