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Rally for Gilad Shalit

I was extremely impressed by the energy and raw enthusiasm of the students who organized a rally in November on behalf of Gilad Shalit on the National Mall. The students pulled together in a very short period of time a rally in which they called for 1,600 people to attend to mark the 1,600 days of captivity of Gilad Shalit. Although there were no official crowd estimates, they certainly had over 1,000 people attend and may very well have had close to 1,600.


I was asked to address the crowd and said, “The 1,600 of us here today send a message. We will not forget Gilad Shalit or his 1,600 days in captivity. We send this message to the capitals throughout the world, as well as to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”


I also reminded those in attendance of the courage and bravery of the Soviet Jews who were held captive by the communist regime. They faced similar odds and had to encounter despair. I told them the story of Natan Sharansky, who writes in his autobiography, “Fear no evil” that his Russian jailors would taunt him by belittling those who were speaking on his behalf. They would tell him, “We are the mighty Soviet empire. And all you have are a bunch of students and housewives demonstrating on your behalf.” But Sharansky explains, “Whenever they would say this, I would respond, ‘Ah, but you don’t understand. Those are Jewish students and Jewish housewives who are demonstrating for my freedom!’”


So hopefully this outpouring by students will also result in the release of Gilad Shalit and his safe and speedy return to his family. It is important that we not forget him and that we not lose hope.

Also published on Medium.


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Stuart Weinblatt

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt is the President of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America. From 2009 - 2014 he served as Director of Israel Policy and Advocacy for the Rabbinical Assembly.
Rabbi Weinblatt is the rabbi of Congregation B'nai Tzedek in Potomac, Maryland, a vibrant Conservative synagogue of 650 families he founded in 1988, along with his wife and a handful of families.