By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
VENTNOR – Members of the South Jersey Jewish community held an advocacy event on the Newport Avenue beach Friday afternoon. They gathered to sign letters to President Joe Biden asking him to do everything in his power to secure the safe release of the civilian hostages being held by Hamas, create awareness about the plight of Israelis and Americans, and raise money to send to Israel.
The attacks were “an act of sheer evil,” and a “violation of every code of human morality,” the letter, which was also signed by more than 40 U.S. Senators, read. “Every day must be treated with a sense of urgency.”
The letter urged U.S. allies and partners to pressure Hamas to allow the International Red Cross to have access to the hostages while the U.S. and Israel work to secure their release.
The beach was lined with little sand buckets containing Israeli flags and photographs of the 32 children under age 18 being held captive by Hamas in Gaza. Blue and white balloons anchored in the sand included photographs of the 241 Israelis and Americans who are also missing and feared kidnapped.
Community members mingled, talked about what they could do to create peace in the world, and stopped for a few mintues to pray and sing in Hebrew.
“This disturbing event and what Hamas did to innocent people is terrible,” Mayor Lance Landgraf said after signing a letter to the president. “We are hoping for a quick resolution to the conflict and hope that no more people have to die, and we can get the hostages back to their families as soon as possible.”
Rachel Waldman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties organized the event, which was well attended by Downbeach residents. She said 21 Jewish organizations and synagogues from the South Jersey area were represented at the event.
“We have been meeting once a week since the attack happened on Oct. 7,” she said. “It’s all hands on deck and everyone has been extremely supportive of our community and for the people in Israel. We want the hostages released immediately.”
Waldman said when people see the faces of victims, especially the children, “it makes us even more energized to connect to our legislators for their safe release.”
Waldman said the local federation is working to raise $350,000 to send to the Jewish Federation of North America, which has pledged $500 million to send to organizations “on the ground” in Israel. She said she is confident the local organization will reach its goal.
Volunteer Rochelle Nisenfeld of Ventnor, who is a member of Chabad at the Shore, said she only found out about the event earlier in the day and immediately sprung into action. She and her friend were distributing little packages of Shabbat candles to light at 5:37 p.m., the time of sundown in Margate. A pamphlet also being distributed to the crowd read: “The news of the day may tell of murder and mayhem, politics and pollution, disease and disaster…But there is a Divine spark in each of us. And so there is hope. For light is a compelling force, which will always triumph over darkness.”
“We came to pass out these little candles. We want to make this world brighter for all the hostages and the Israeli service members,” she said. “We have to keep them going in a positive way.”
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