“The warm feeling of family when family’s at its best”: Jewish Americans Cope with the Israel-Hamas War
Amanda Birger

“The warm feeling of family when family’s at its best”: Jewish Americans Cope with the Israel-Hamas War

On Nov. 14, 2023, 300,000 Jews gathered at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the March for Israel. It was empowering to see so many Jewish family members together. It felt completely safe and sheltered. Yet, this wasn’t the first event regarding the war that took place.


Previously, on October 7 around 6:30 a.m., Hamas, a terrorist group based in the territory of Gaza in Israel, launched a brutal attack on Israel. 5,000 rockets were launched into Israel in a span of 20 minutes. Although we may not have been there, every Jew felt an impact. Many people have family, either in Israel in fear, or fighting in the war. 


Across the ocean, in the United States, communities were vulnerable. The effect of this war has reached over 6,500 miles. Even before the march, steps had been taken on a more local level, including the Kansas City area .


Meet Nava Andorsky, a high school freshman in Baltimore, Md., who used to attend a Jewish private school but has switched to another private school for high school. A few weeks ago, Andorsky attended her old Jewish day school for an event meant to help the community cope with the October 7th attacks. “They had a bunch of rabbis come from all over Maryland and other states to speak about what has happened to them and what steps we can take next… All of the rabbis were talking about their personal encounters,” said Andorsky. 


Andorsky continued, “One of the stories was about a guy who wasn’t even a rabbi, he just happened to be there. He said his friend was serving in the army and then was killed, and before his friend died, they had a friend around 20 years ago who died while serving. Every year on his Yartzeit [an anniversary of a loved one’s passing], they would sing a song together, and he was talking about how now he has no one to sing the song with anymore.” 


Washington, D.C. – The community holding up signs to show support for the people who have been kidnapped. (Nava Andorsky)


Although this conflict has torn people apart, it has also brought people closer than ever before. Jewish kids from all over Baltimore have gathered together on their own accord. 


Andorsky said, “Sometimes, they just want you to have a safe space to talk to your Jewish friends, and it’s honestly really nice because switching from a Jewish middle school to a non-Jewish high school is a big switch, and you feel like you lose a lot of these friends, but when you show up, you see a ton of kids. Last week there were 250 [Jewish] kids in one Starbucks.” 


This experience is not isolated to Baltimore. 


People around the country have been gathering together as a result of this war. One major gathering happened right here in the Kansas City Metro area. 


On Oct. 9, just two days after the attacks on Israel, the Jewish community in the Kansas City Metro area gathered at B’nei Yehuda, Overland Park, Kan., for a time of prayer and consolation. Rabbis from nearly every synagogue were present, including Rabbi David Glickman of Beth Shalom and Rabbi Mark Glass of Beth Israel Abraham and Voliner (BIAV).


Rabbi Glickman and Rabbi Glass shared similar views on the event. Rabbi Glickman said, “It was very moving to see so much of the Jewish community gathered together. It’s rare to see so many people from the Jewish community, every synagogue was represented.” 


Rabbi Glass shared a similar perspective, “I think, for me it was less about seeing people from my congregation of BIAV, and other congregations, and more about seeing all of us as a larger Kansas City community together.” 


When everyone gathered at B’nei Yehuda, there were no individual communities, just one unified community. The unification of this community, however, did not come easy. Rabbi Glass shared, “It was really empowering to see everyone show up, and although it took this kind of event to bring us together, we were able to be there for each other.” 


This made the event have a significant impact on us as a community, and the urgency of this event was an important factor.


Although within a few weeks after the event, participants may not remember exactly what prayers were said or what songs were sung, Rabbi Glickman said, “What I think most people would remember, and certainly what I remember, is the feeling. The warm feeling of family when family’s at its best.” The sense of family remained strong throughout the coming weeks, as just six days later, on Oct. 15th, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) celebrated The Jewish Culture Fest.


The JCC suspended its yearly event after COVID-19 hit, so this was the first Jewish Culture Fest planned in five years. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Despite the looming threat of violence, over 100 vendors set up shop to sell their goods as children played in the parking lot. Families bought homemade falafel, and the one and only Maccabeats performed on stage.


Washington, D.C. – A man stands with a sign that reads, “Christians stand with Israel.” (Nava Andorsky)


Ben Novorr, the Director of Youth and Family Programming at Beth Shalom, shared his thoughts on how he was able to balance the joy of the 2023 Jewish Culture Fest in Kansas City and the sadness of the war. 


Novorr said, “As a Jewish community, it’s not just about being Jewish on our own that makes it so meaningful. What makes it so meaningful is being Jewish together…our fellow community members are grieving, just like we are.” 


The Jewish Culture Fest was a welcomed event by many, as it showed that even while we grieve, we are able to find community and comfort within each other. While we comfort and grieve with each other, activism is also strong.

Everything that we do has an impact. Nothing goes unnoticed. The local community events are vital for our well being. The D.C. March for Israel was a beacon of hope for all Jews. Non-Jewish representatives and activists spoke, people prayed an early morning Shacharit in front of the White House, and we showed up to support our people. Even though Israel may be a tiny nation, we are powerful, and we care. Washington, D.C. may be 6,500 miles away from the terrorist attacks, but our voices can be heard, and our support can be felt. We are understood. We are a family. Am Yisrael Chai.

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About the Contributor
Naftali Tilove
Naftali Tilove, Writer
Naftali Tilove is a freshman at HBHA. This is his first year in publications. In his free time, he likes to play basketball and run cross country. He is excited to learn how to take pictures and write articles.