Dear Maharat Rori,
The reality of the past few days has been heart-wrenching for all of us throughout our Jewish community here in St. Louis and around the world. Since the unfathomable violence began on Saturday, which was also Shabbat and the holiday of Shemini Atzeret, more than 900 Israelis have been killed. Some 2600 are wounded, 600 of whom are still hospitalized. In addition, approximately 5,000 rockets fired at Israel and an estimated 150 Israelis being held hostage in Gaza. While there have been some military skirmishes in the North, so far there have not been full-scale battles outside of the areas surrounding Gaza and in the south of Israel.
We all mourn the tragic and unspeakable loss of life in the past four days, and will continue to hold space for everyone to both process events as they unfold and to get the support they need. All of us in our St. Louis Jewish community have friends and loved ones who have been impacted, whether they be displaced from their home, called into the army, fleeing to shelters, traumatized by bombs, or even harder to hold, killed or kidnapped. It is impossible to hold all those suffering today, but we want to acknowledge our own Missouri native, Deborah Matias z”l, and her husband, Shlomi z”l, who were killed in Israel protecting their 16-year old son, Rotem. Our deepest sympathies go out to their family and loved ones, and to all of those mourning the loss of so many innocent lives. We are all wondering what to do to help, and while we cannot individually end the violence, there are things each of us can do.
In the body of this email are ways to support Israel and come together with other community members in solidarity. Additionally, I encourage you to reach out to friends, colleagues, family, and neighbors, both here and in Israel. People may not be able, or have the energy, to reply right away, but knowing that you care and are aware of the tragedies happening in Israel is essential and heartening.
The JCRC is also working with all our partners to collect and share resources so that people can be directed to the credible, accurate information about the current situation in Israel. Things do change rapidly, however, and while we will work to share new information, we will not be able to update everything in real time. Below, you can see a number of resources and we will share more as we get them.
Whenever there are heightened tensions in Israel, we see a rise in antisemitism across the United States. Our community is working tirelessly to ensure that all of our Jewish communal institutions are safe and we are in touch with our partners at schools to provide them resources to respond to any bullying or harassment our students might face. If you do learn of or experience an antisemitic incident, please do not feel that you need to respond on your own. Reach out to us at the JCRC, report it to the ADL, contact our Community Security Director Scott Biondo, and of course, notify law enforcement.
Most of all, make sure you are taking care of yourself and each other. Our community, our partner organizations, and all of those we have relationships with are our greatest resources in difficult times like these. As we said on Simchat Torah, upon completing the reading of the final words of Torah and taking up the cycle of learning and growing all over again at the very beginning:
!חזק, חזק, ונתחזק
Chazak, Chazak, V’nit’chazek
“Be strong, be strong, and let us strengthen one another.”