St. Louis remembers missing soldiers


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One year ago three Israeli soldiers were abducted and held captive by Hezbollah and Hamas. Now, one year later, they are still missing.

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Those three soldiers are Gilad Shalit, Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

A petition was delivered to the UN, which was signed by over 50,000 people demanding the release of the Israeli hostages.

To mark the one-year anniversary of these kidnappings and to demand the release of the soldiers, members of the St. Louis community came together on the evening of Monday, July 30 for a solidarity gathering coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) entitled “FREE the Soldiers.” The ceremony took place in the Jewish Federation Kopolow Building without an empty seat available.

“It’s so important that the situation regarding these kidnapped soldiers be kept in the hearts and minds of St. Louisans,” said Batya Abramson-Goldstein, executive director of JCRC. “We think that through this focus we’ll do something towards making that happen. We must pay attention ourselves. We must bring it to the attention of others who are not aware of it.”

Gilad Shalit first went missing on June 25, 2006 and a few weeks later, Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were kidnapped on July 12, 2006.

“This marks a year that they’ve been in captivity,” Abramson-Goldstein said. “They were cruelly kidnapped. People have to realize they were kidnapped from Israeli soil. This is unacceptable, and their families live with the cruel fact of their absence everyday. We need to stop once in awhile and say we care and keep them in our minds and hearts.”

Some of the speakers at the ceremony included Heschel Raskas, president of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and Douglas Copeland, immediate past president of the Missouri Bar Association. Joseph C. White, CEO of the American Red Cross in St. Louis also presented a speech on their efforts on behalf of the kidnapped soldiers.

Youths were able to be get involved with this issue as well, through the Israel Teen Advocacy Group (iTag) and through Camp Ramot Amoona, from Congregation B’nai Amoona.

“I believe passionately that it’s vital to engage young people in the important issues that are facing our community,” Abramson-Goldstein said.

Campers from kindergarten through sixth grade worked on a project in which they were encouraged to write cards and letters to the families of the kidnapped soldiers. Max and Zoe Alper, two campers from Ramot Amoona, presented them to Dr. Andy David, the Deputy Consul General of Israel for the Midwest.

“Israel is a very important part of everything we do at camp,” said Barbie Barnholtz, camp and youth director for B’nai Amoona. “It is now the year marker of the soldiers being captured so we decided to make it different and talk about these particular soldiers versus soldiers in general.”

There were about 150 campers who participated in this project.

“They took it really seriously and I think it was a really good choice that we went through this process,” Barnholtz said. “They learned a lot from it.”

In conclusion of the ceremony, Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman, rabbi emeritus for Shaare Emeth, as well as the participants at the ceremony, recited a prayer for the kidnapped soldiers. “We need to get the word out and that we are concerned about these soldiers,” said Stiffman. “We cannot forget.”