A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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Young St. Louisans join in history-making rally

Nathan Arst
An image from the Nov. 14 Israel rally in Washington, D.C.

On Nov. 14, an estimated 300,000 Jews traveled to Washington, D.C. to support Israel in its war against Hamas, and to condemn Hamas’ egregious attack on Jews—particularly, the kidnapping of Israeli citizens.

The national mall was packed—there was hardly room to move. Two percent of the entire Jewish population attended the rally.

Each rally goer represented 20 American Jews.

“I wanted the numbers to be big; I didn’t want it to be sad showing up,” said Rina Mangurten, a former St. Louisan who now lives in California’s Bay Area. “I wanted there to be hundreds of thousands of people.”

The moment Mangurten heard about the rally, she felt inclined to attend.

“For the last month I’ve really been feeling helpless and feeling far away from the people who are suffering, the people that I love and care about,” she said. “When I heard they were planning something like this, it felt like I needed to be there.”

Mangurten traveled literally across the country to join this historic and unifying event. Five hours on two flights—in addition to layovers—didn’t discourage her, though.

“[The travel] was worth it. There were people on my flight doing the same thing, from the Bay Area,” she said. “It felt fun, like we’re all in this together—like this random group of people going from one end of the country to the other.”

Tzofia Dean, a junior at Parkway Central and B’nai Amoona congregant, flew to D.C. with the Jewish Student Union (JSU), which organized a trip with Epstein Hebrew Academy.

“It was a very cool and special moment when everyone sang ‘Hatikvah’ and ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ on the plane,” Dean said. “[JSU chaperone] Rabbi (Michael) Rovinsky walked up to the front of the plane and sang, and people on the plane were waving their flags—even the flight attendants.”

That feeling of unity began on the plane—but the flight was only an introduction.

Rabbi Jonathan Fruchter, assistant principal of Judaic Studies at Epstein Hebrew Academy, chaperoned his 8th through 12th graders to D.C., in partnership with JSU.

“We were up at 3 a.m., and didn’t get back until about 21 hours later, around midnight—but it was one 21-hour long day that we will never forget,” Fruchter said.

This is the first time Fruchter had gathered with that many people.

“When you’re in [the rally], it’s hard to fathom how many people are actually there,” he said. “But when you see the pictures and see how many people you were actually there with—that’s when it really starts hitting home.”

In such a tremendous crowd, you might think it’s impossible to come across people you know. But on many occasions, old friends happened to cross paths.

“One [reasoning moment] was bumping into [some of my former students],” Mangurten said. “In a crowd of 300,000 people … seeing [them] walk by was like, ‘Wow, the universe wanted us to see each other.’ That felt very powerful.”

Discovering people who you know aroused great enthusiasm. But witnessing what went down at the rally—the speeches, the music, the unity—was just as inspiring.

“A powerful thing was everyone singing ‘Hatikvah’ with [famous singer] Omer Adam. We sing this song about longing for Israel for 2,000 years, and we still have this connection and belonging,” Mangurten said. “‘Hatikva’ is always emotional, but to be in a crowd like that—and to be in the nation’s capital, singing this national anthem of a different nation—felt very meaningful.”

Among the songs sung was “Acheinu,” a prayer for God’s deliverance through difficult times. Its hopeful words and soulful tune moved the crowd.

“When everyone sang ‘Acheinu,’ it was very beautiful,” Dean said. “Everyone was just singing together, and I just kept replaying the video [after the rally] because all the voices together were just so beautiful.”

Understanding the message of “Acheinu” added extra meaning to the singing.

Acheinu kol beis Yisrael—it’s about our brothers,” Fruchter explained. “So when you’re hand in hand with your brothers, singing about your brothers who are b’shivya, in captivity, was a very impactful moment for me.”

Tragedy easily ignites short-term unity, but it’s more difficult to maintain that togetherness once the waters calm. Hamas inflicted great pain on the Jewish people—but we will know we have won when we emerge a stronger, more unified Jewish people.

“The unity that is currently felt among the Jewish people—across all sects of Judaism—was expressed at the rally, by seeing all those people come together,” Fruchter said. “I really hope that when the war does end, and all the captives are freed, that the unity remains.”

If we keep our momentum going and remind ourselves that we all belong to klal Yisrael, that unity won’t leave us. Our teffilot, mitzvot and care for each other are not just a military strategy—they are the essence of the Jewish people.

“Jewish people will always stand together,” Dean said. “We will stand together to support one another, and to pray for one another, and no matter what, at the end of the day, we have each other’s backs. We are all one big family.”

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