St. Louis Jews back Israel

BY KEREN DOUEK, ASSISTANT EDITOR

With the situation in Israel escalating rapidly, St. Louis joins Jewish communities around the world in expressing deep concerns over the situation and working to show support for Israel in any way it can.

Rabbi Jeffrey Bienenfeld of Young Israel of St. Louis, which held a prayer vigil on Sunday, July 16, said the mood was serious, prayerful, concerned and worried, with standing-room only and “a real, firm conviction that prayers can help. Prayers do make a difference.”

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Community leaders gathered on Monday, July 17, to meet with Senators Kit Bond and Orrin Hatch, which Batya Abramson-Goldstein — executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council — said went very well, with an overflow of leaders representing the different denominations within the community present, and much up-to-date, important information and discussions.

“I think there is a high level of concern,” Abramson-Goldstein said. “There were hopes that we were in a different era in terms of that we would not be hearing of attacks and deaths and kidnappings, and I think it is a shock to people that we are once again faced with Israel in a serious crisis.”

Barry Rosenberg, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, said it seems everyone is “very concerned and very worried about the attacks on Israel and the impact on the Israeli community.”

“It is on everybody’s mind, and I think people are pretty much glued to the Internet updates and other news venues to see what is happening because the situation changes from moment to moment,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg said traditionally the Jewish Federation has played a significant role in terms of trying to coordinate community response, and is seeking to educate the larger community of the situation and Israel’s perspective, to help the Jewish community clearly demonstrate its support of Israel, and to raise funds to help Israel in its current situation.

The Jewish Federation committed to an immediate payment of $50,000 as part of an initial United Jewish Communities pledge of $1 million, and is accepting contributions online at www.jewishinstlouis.com or by mail to the Jewish Federation.

At press time, the Federation had scheduled a Community Solidarity Rally for Tuesday, July 18 at the Jewish Community Center. The rally was set to be coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council with the cooperation of the JCC and the St. Louis Rabbinic Association. Guest speakers were to include Barukh Binah, the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, and Dr. David Greenhaw, president of Eden Theological Seminary.

Following the rally, there was a private briefing with the consul general for local elected officials, state legislators, and interfaith and inter-group leadership.

JCRC and the American Israel Public Affairs committee will be hosting a community briefing with Dr. Yossi Olmert, political columnist for the Jerusalem Post and former Israeli Government Policy Advisor, titled Facing the Storm: The Next Steps in Securing Israel’s Future. The briefing will take place on Wednesday, July 26 at 7 p.m. at Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel and participants are requested to reserve before July 24 by contacting AIPAC at 312-236-8550, JCRC at 314-442-3770, or BSKI at 314-725-6230.

Keren Douek is an assistant editor and can be reached at [email protected]