July 5, 2007
Crises in Israel energize support from diaspora communities
(Page 2 - Previous Page)"I was in Sderot recently, and I was saying morning prayers, and the siren went off," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. "By the time I turned around to verify what was going on, it had already hit a quarter-mile away. There was no time.
"I'm afraid that too many people in Israel and too many people here have a disconnected attitude about what is going on in Sderot," he continued. "And that is a disaster -- not only because that is not what Judaism is all about and not what Israel is all about -- but because it sends the message to her enemies that if Israel is not responding, it is because she is weak."
Danoch said Israel was being patient and expedient, not meek, in responding to Hamas' attacks on Sderot. "Israel will not allow Hamas to continue with this for a very long time," he said.
Meanwhile, Jewish organizations are creating funds for the city under siege. The Chabad Sderot Relief Fund, for one, seeks to provide aid and convince American Jews that Sderot's suffering is not part of an insignificant conflict but vital to the State of Israel.
"There is no question that when people sense crisis, they are willing to reach deeper into their pockets," said Rabbi David Eliezrie of Congregation Beth Meir HaCohen/North County Chabad Center in Yorba Linda. "That is human nature. When you see, for instance, this issue with Sderot, when you hear the stories and you see these people suffering, it becomes so much more to you.
"They are not on the front lines for themselves, they are on the front line for all Jews," he said.
When attacks escalated in May, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) reopened its Israel Emergency Assistance Fund to help the city build a psychological services center. So far, AJC members have donated $75,000 online.
"It doesn't resonate so dramatically in the way the war with Hezbollah did last year," spokesman Kenneth Bandler said. "Even during that war last summer, Sderot was getting pounded by Gaza and didn't get the attention it deserved.
"But this is a serious situation; they need the assistance," he stressed. "And now with Hamas taking over Gaza, it is an open question about what happens."
Also lingering are questions about the safety and future freedom of Israel's three kidnapped soldiers. Across the Jewish ideological spectrum, from the Progressive Jewish Alliance to the Republican Jewish Coalition, there is consensus that Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev cannot be forgotten.
"The continuing captivity of Wasserman and Regev, and earlier of Gilad Shalit near Gaza, is a rallying point for our students, as is the anger at much of the world's condemnation of Israel, rather than of Hezbollah," said Samuel M. Edelman, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism). "I see both positive and negative aspects of the war. Israel was successful in undercutting Hezbollah but wasn't able to get the captive soldiers back. We are now at a critical juncture."
Brad A. Greenberg is a staff writer for The Journal; Tom Tugend is a contributing editor.
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