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Schumer, Gold, Messing and Relatives of Hostages Speak to 10,000 at New York Rally

The most emotional moments were appearances by some of the families of the more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas.
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November 7, 2023
Gili Roman, whose sister Yarden, is held hostage by Hamas said he hopes she will come home safely. Behind him are (right to left) Brett Gelman, Debra Messing, Elon Gold and Ofri Haggai, who aunt and uncle Gadi and Judith are held hostage by Hamas. Photo by Perry Bindelglass/JCRC

On November 6, an estimated 10,000 people attended the “United For Israel Rally” produced by UJA Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Among the speakers marking one-month since Hamas’ attack were Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), comedian Elon Gold, and actress Debra Messing. But the most emotional moments were appearances by some of the families of the more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas.

Gili Roman told the heartbreaking but inspiring story of his sister, Yarden, who is being held as a hostage by Hamas.

Roman explained that his sister, her husband Alon and 3-year-old daughter Gefen were taken in a vehicle by Hamas but they jumped out and his sister handed the child to her husband and the two escaped to freedom while Yarden was caught.

“I know it’s a horror story, (but) this is a story of courage,” he told the crowd. “ I think we owe Yarden the same courage to bring her back home…

In a brief interview with the Journal, Roman said the family was “absolutely shocked and worried beyond anything we ever imagined” on October 7.

“We have hope and this is what holds us together,” he said. “We are trying to advocate for her. I know there are concrete conversations being held so let’s hope for the best.”

Ofri Haggai told the story of her aunt and uncle, Gadi and Judith who were taken captive from Kibbutz Be’eri but said they did not have much information.

“My heart is broken,” she said. “They are not part of this conflict. They are civilians.”

Senator Schumer, who is Jewish, explained that he flew to Israel from China upon hearing about the massacre.

“I said to the Israelis, ‘You do not stand alone; we have your back,’” he told the crowd, adding that Hamas rockets flew over his Tel Aviv hotel and his family suffered under Nazi Germany in World War II. He also said the American government would make sure Israel has the support it needed. U.S. Representative Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) credited President Joe Biden with supporting Israel and noted that Congress passed a resolution against antisemitism by a large margin.

Comedian Elon Gold said this was a rare time he would not employ his trade.

“I haven’t felt funny in 30 days,” he said. “I am heartbroken, I am full of despair, rage and fear.”

He said antisemites are falsely calling what Israel is doing a genocide.

“Instead of vilifying Israel, the world should be praying for Israel,” Gold said. said.

After the rally, Gold spoke to the Journal and said it is a hard time for everyone.

“My emptions are running from being still being completely shocked and depressed to feeling unified and inspired by thousands showing up,” Gold said. “It is a heartwarming moment in the middle of this Hell.”

He noted that many in Hollywood have spoken up but some have not.

One who has was Debra Messing, who played Grace Adler on the hit show “Will & Grace.”

Sometimes, Messing, who is Jewish, said, “it just feels like the whole world hates us.”

But she added there are many advocates of Israel who call out the barbarism of Hamas.

As part of her speech, she read a letter she would have written to her mother, Sandra, who passed away, telling her things will be okay.

Jewish actor Brett Gelman, who starred as Murray Bauman in Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” told the crowd he was disgusted by antisemitic infiltration on college campuses, gaslighting on social media and “genocidal chants masquerading as resistance.”

Noam Gilboord, CEO of the JCRC of New York, told those that came to the rally that at anti-Israel rallies there are chants that there is “only one solution, Intifada, revolution …

We know from our history what it means when someone says that for the Jews, there is only one solution. And to those people, this crowd of 10,00 strong, we say ‘never again.’” He ended by declaring that “murderers are not liberators.”

Los Angeles native Chiara Greene, who lives in Brooklyn, attended the rally and said she felt a lot of emotions.

“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “Obviously what happened is a horrible tragedy and it’s horrifying and there is so much suffering. But I feel like it’s powerful to see people come together.”

She said she hopes the hostages can come home safely and noted a rise in antisemitism in New York and across the globe.

“You definitely feel it,” she said. “But nothing is gonna stop me from wearing my Jewish star (necklace) and being proud.”

Ronen Barak, held a sign about freeing the hostages and said he moved from Kibbutz Be’eri to New York several decades ago.

He said Israel’s policy of hitting Hamas every few years and pulling back clearly does not make sense.

“Nobody wants war,” Barak told the Journal, adding that he has friends who have been killed and others who were taken hostage.  “But we have to finish Hamas or there will be no security. And we are praying that our hostages come home.”

Israeli star Idan Raichel performed his hit “Mimamakim” while Gad Elbaz performed several songs and flawlessly belted out high notes despite the chilly weather.

Idan Raichel performs at the rally. Photo by Perry Bindelglass/JCRC

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said students who support Hamas should be expelled and professors who do so should be fired

Israel has the power to defend itself, he said, While it is 2023 and not 1943, Erdan said he is aware there is rampant Jew-hatred.

“Before we could even bury our dead we saw millions around the world rejoicing,” he said.

 Justice will be served.

“Talk is cheap, but Jewish blood isn’t.”

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