Rally For Freeing Hostages Held In Forest Hills

With the first signs of the approaching winter, a crowd gathered at McDonald Park in Forest Hills on Sunday, October 22, for a rally in support of freeing our hostages being held in Gaza. The more we speak out as Jews and as human beings, the more our voice will be heard by our political leaders. In a war that has political leaders, groups on college campuses, and self-proclaimed human rights activists condoning the brutal and barbaric murder of babies, children, and the elderly, condoning the annihilation of entire families – for spending the day at a park or music festival or in their own homes – we, not only as part of am Yisrael but those who believe in humanity, must speak out.

We need to do more, say more, be more. In a county of over 200,000 Jews from all backgrounds, we should be seeing thousands at every event, so our pleas and demand for immediate release of all hostages, and support for Israel to protect herself and her people, cannot be ignored. On this blustery Sunday, a rally, organized by Ethan Felder, begged for us to stand up against this hatred. It is imperative for the world to hear, see, and understand the gravity of this situation. To see the faces of the victims, to hear the cries of the families, who will never be the same, who go to sleep not knowing if they will ever see their loved ones again and not knowing the torturous acts that these barbarians are committing on the youngest of children to the most defenseless elderly.

Across the world, the Jewish people and those against this heinous behavior are giving aid, but the aid being sent is not enough, people are sending money and supplies, but it is not enough, people are davening and offering chizuk, strength, but it is not enough. We need to do more, daven harder, speak more loudly for the broken families and communities, for those who have lost and those who just do not know, we need to do more; we need to fight with all we have to get our politicians and the world to open their eyes, ears, and mouths and help us bring our hostages home.

“There is no explaining, justifying, or trying to understand the barbarism – none whatsoever. Those who did what they did are brutal terrorists and nothing else,” said rally organizer Ethan Felder in a powerful speech. “You just need to look at social media to see the faces and read the stories about the lives of people who were starting life, who were contributing. Scout leaders, and teachers, and nurses, and rabbis, and soldiers: They are flesh and blood – they are all of us. When we see and hear the voices that want to sew hatred, remember to never shy away from the pride of who we are.”

Several speakers spoke from their hearts, while participants held banners of missing people, human beings being held for no reason other than their religion. Mothers cried tears for their sons and daughters called up to fight in the IDF to protect our people. Terri Kalker, a prominent local attorney and resident of Kew Gardens Hills and Efrat, said, “I am attending this rally because it is our obligation to come out and stand for those who can’t. My son is in the reserves and is fighting to protect our home, while his wife and four daughters wait for him to come home. I can relate to every mother and father out there, to their fear whether their child is in the IDF or being held hostage – the unending fear of not knowing where your child is.”

Following a story about a young man, a youth group leader, wanting to be in the land he loved with the people he loved and now being held hostage, Rabbi Daniel Graber explained that “in the Torah it says twice that you should not murder a person. The answer to why it is stated twice is that in one place it refers to the physical act of murder, but in the second place it refers to the act of kidnapping someone. You remove them from their lives, you remove them from the people who love them, you remove their ability to move freely and to speak. Now we can only daven that we can hear their voices again and reunite them with their loved ones.”

Through the applause, the crowd began chanting “Let our hostages go” before joining voices in a heartfelt HaTikvah, the Jewish National Anthem, and Am Yisrael Chai.

“Though it is good to see this turnout, we need more people at more events to really be heard,” said Gloria Rappaport, a community member. Mark Paine added that “It is nice to see the support; it is very heartening during these very dark times.”

We were reminded of the importance of standing together as the Jewish people and as human beings: that we will not tolerate this barbarism, that humanity matters, the people matter, their nations matter, and their families matter. We need to make our voices heard and to continue our support.