Capacity Crowd Packs Beth El In Show Of Solidarity With Israel

Roughly 1,700 Jews and community allies packed the Beth El Synagogue’s sanctuary on Tuesday evening to mourn the over 1,000 Israelis murdered by Hamas, the Iran-backed terrorist organization that controls Gaza, and show solidarity with Israel. 

Nearly 1,000 more people joined the solidarity rally by live stream, and several hundred watched outside the building after Beth El reached capacity, according to event security.

Speakers included Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Gov. Tim Walz, local Israelis, an Israel Defense Forces soldier from Minnesota who just finished his service, and other Jewish clergy and leaders. All unequivocally condemned Hamas, which invaded Israeli communities near the Gaza border on Saturday to murder people in their homes and take over 150 hostages.

“If you did not find moral clarity on Saturday morning, and you find yourself waiting to think about what you needed to say, you need to reevaluate where you’re at,” Walz said.

“What was evident on Saturday morning was the absolute lack of humanity, the terrorism and the barbarism,” he said. “That’s not a geopolitical discussion. That’s murder.”

Walz and Klobuchar emphasized that support for Israel is bipartisan at the state and federal level, and spoke of the strength of the Israeli spirit in the face of national tragedy. Hamas’ Saturday terrorism is the deadliest single-day attack on Jews since the Holocaust.

“The strength of the Israeli people stands in stark contrast to the acts of terrorism and cowardice we saw over the weekend, attacking the innocent in an attempt…to instill fear and break the spirit of Israel,” Klobuchar said.

“I tell you now that the Israeli spirit will not be broken.”

Speakers emphasized Israel’s right to respond to Hamas, and that the United States will stand by Israel in its time of need.

“The U.S. must be united in our support for Israel’s right to self-defense,” said Klobuchar.

Rep. Tom Emmer offered a similar message in a note read by Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.

“Now is not the time for the United States to be hesitant,” Emmer wrote. “We remain committed to aiding Israel as they rightfully defend themselves.”

The solidarity event was co-sponsored by the JCRC; Minneapolis and St. Paul Jewish Federations; Minnesota Rabbinical Association; Minnesota Cantor’s Association; and TC Jewfolk. In attendance were Jewish and non-Jewish state lawmakers, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, and other local leaders.

The solidarity event hosted a cross-section of the Twin Cities Jewish community, with Jews of all denominations attending. Speakers encouraged the Jewish community to donate to Israeli humanitarian and war efforts, be it by giving money for military equipment or donating to the Jewish Federations to disburse across organizations helping Israelis.

Jewish prayer was spoken and sung during the program, led in part by a group of cantors. The program included the prayer for the State of Israel, the prayer for the release of hostages, and El Malei Rachamim, a mourning prayer usually sung during funerals that translates to “God, full of compassion.” 

Rabbi Alexander Davis, senior rabbi at Beth El, spoke to the spiritual tragedy that struck the Jewish people on Saturday. The Hamas attack came at the end of Sukkot, a festival part of the Jewish High Holy days, and the dual holidays of Shemini Atzeret-Simchat Torah, when Jews are supposed to be joyous and celebrate the Torah. 

“Our joy has turned to mourning, and our songs to elegies,” Davis said. “We prayed for rain, and have been met instead with the rain of rockets, the rain of terror.

“Tonight the most poignant questions: Where’s my daughter? What happened to my brother? How can I help?” he said. “These questions cut right to the core and bring us here in person and online. We gather to hold each other in fear and in sorrow, in love and in hope.”

Davis called to wholly support Israel’s war against Hamas, while at the same time not forgetting morals and humanity.

“Our Torah…calls on us to do what is so difficult but what is so critically important, to fight and to support the war without surrendering our humanity,” he said. “To fight with all legitimate might and to acknowledge human suffering. And no one does it better than Israel.”

Local Israelis Shai Avny and Tal Dror Rouache spoke about the pain they feel knowing people who were murdered by Hamas, including at an Israeli music festival where hundreds were killed, and seeing the destruction the terror group caused.

“What hurts the most is the fact of the choices they made as humans,” Dror Rouache said. “As human beings, they decided to take innocent kids, pregnant women, seniors, babies, and anyone who they could get as hostages into Gaza…they are proud of their actions.”

By contrast, Dror Rouache said she was proud of the Israeli people for acting differently. She told the story of one elderly Israeli couple who avoided murder and being kidnapped because they fed and cared for Hamas militants who entered the home, distracting them long enough for Israeli forces to save the couple.

“This is the beauty of the people in Israel, of my people,” Dror Rouache. “We choose to behave like humans with a soul. I pray for the hostages who were kidnapped from their houses in the south and from the music festival to be back home safe.”

Several Israelis with direct ties to Minnesota have been killed by Hamas, including Netta Epstein, who attended Herzl Camp for several years and was part of the Ozo (staff-in-training) program in 2018. 

Epstein was from a kibbutz near the Gaza border, and the first Israeli Herzl camper to come back as an Ozo. He died protecting his girlfriend from a grenade thrown by Hamas terrorists.

Gov. Walz noted that the coming days will be difficult, both because of the war between Israel and Hamas, and because times of violence in Israel lead to increased antisemitism in the rest of the world. But Minnesota will support its Jewish community, he said, and stand by Israel.

“I assure each and every one of you here, that all of the resources in the state of Minnesota [will be applied] to protect you and your homes, your businesses, and your place of worship,” Walz said. 

Antisemitic incidents and attacks tend to increase during violent situations in Israel, and experts have warned that, given the severity of the Hamas attack and Israel’s response, there may be acute examples of that in the coming days.

“All of us understand what’s coming,” he said. “This is going to be a difficult time. But it’s a time of moral clarity of what needs to be done, what will be done, and the protection of Israel.”

If you want to help Israel, see our TC Jewfolk guide to trusted organizations and fundraisers you can donate to.