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After October 7, How are American Jews?

A woman carries a sign that reads "The People of Israel Live" during the March for Israel in Washington on the National Mall, November 14, 2023. (Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters)

On May 12, Israel literally stopped—as it does each year for two minutes of silence—when sirens notified the country to come to a standstill on their Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron). Warning sirens also sounded with incoming rockets from Hamas and Hezbollah. There was no peace that day, even in grief. Later, at the Western Wall, President Isaac Herzog stood with his shirt collar torn in mourning, which he called “a symbol of a blood-drenched rend in the heart of the people. A tear in the heart of the State of Israel. … A great tragedy has befallen us.”

Since October 7, 2023, every day is Memorial Day in Israel. The Times of Israel reports that 1,600 soldiers and civilians were killed either in combat or by terrorist attacks since Israel’s last Memorial Day, according to authorities. It was unquestionably the deadliest year for Israel’s security forces and civilians in 50 years. For 76 years—in multiple wars launched against Israel since its founding—the national casualties in this small country have totaled 30,140.

The day after Memorial Day, Israelis celebrated their Independence Day (Yom HaAtzma’ut). The switch from mourning to celebration is intentional, because for Israel, hope and happiness must endure. On May 14, Israel’s 76th anniversary was still celebrated, yet the celebrations were muted amid the heartbreak hovering over Israel in its national trauma. The usual dazzling fireworks displays—which might have triggered additional trauma in IDF soldiers, families and victims—were canceled.

The grim realities in Israel resonate with most American Jews. I checked in with several of my Jewish friends here in the United States by taking an informal poll during this significant week in Israel, asking them to reflect on their experiences here during the ongoing Hamas War. With eruptions on university campuses and the advent of additional silencing strategies toward Christians, we must echo the same concerns of our Jewish friends. Heed their voices. They are our “canary in the coal mine”—right here in the USA.

Susanne M. Reyto, a Holocaust survivor and an author (Pursuit of Freedom and Destination Freedom), is an educator through her books and leadership. She brought to Los Angeles the Violins of Hope, a collection of lovingly restored violins played by Jews during the Holocaust, to educate modern audiences through the power of music. Susanne cautions, “We must teach youngsters to empower themselves to fight for the truth. American Jewry has the good fortune of never having to flee and run to a homeland, so their appreciation for Israel is different than those of us who feel Israel is our umbrella protector.”

Ari Bussel, an Israeli-American friend and a foreign correspondent, gives us a clear view of what he saw with his own eyes: “Seeing my alma mater turn into a battleground at the University of California in Los Angeles caused me not to sleep. Jewish women dared to stand up at a press conference, and the young terrorist-protesters made them into victims. When the police moved in to arrest the aspiring terrorists in the encampment, they also attacked the police.”

Ari’s observation is that, once again, the lie has been multiplied—that Jews dared to attack the peaceful students! He warns, “To win, we must understand this is a war against the USA. Our enemies want ‘Death to Israel and Death to America’; they are against the two satans, and our fate will be one. Therefore, it is time for action to save America.”

My friend Norma Zager, an award-winning journalist, declares: “As a Jew in America today I feel an enormous sense of betrayal and fear. The promise of my country to accept all races, creeds and colors of people has been changed to ‘all but Jews.’ It should be a priority for every Jewish person to pray the Jewish State is triumphant.”

Paul Samuels, my Jewish husband, reveals another perspective. “Both my parents’ families fled Russian pogroms and immigrated through Ellis Island in the early 1900s. In the Bronx I was called a “Christ killer,” but no one marched against us. I am shocked now by the intense Jew hatred in the U.S. I don’t have deep fear, yet I look around me far more now,” he said. “I am glad that my parents are not alive to experience the same Jew hatred they faced as children in Russia. At 80, I am a proud first-generation American. My Dad served in World War II, and I am a Navy veteran.”  

Another Israeli-American friend is a deeply concerned parent of three younger children. “My children know they are Jews by birth and tradition and have family in Israel. Sadly, it’s a challenge to preserve their innocence. Some people simply dislike my kids for who they are, an awful reality. Can you imagine your kids living with that? I must teach my kids how to deal with hate and advocate for themselves. It’s a lot to ask.” My friend had chosen to remain silent about her Israeli heritage to avoid conflict, but October 7 totally changed her. “I cannot afford to keep quiet now. I must face the hatred head-on.”

Ari Bussel has an unambiguous message for his fellow Jews. “American Jews are responsible for the failure to respond to our Jewish students. The Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Federations of North America, Hillel and J Street, the organized Jewish world failed miserably and is fully responsible.”

My message as a Christian to other Christians reflects the thoughts of my Jewish friend who was a U.S. Navy pilot flying the famous F-14 Tomcats. “As an American I put my life on the line for the United States, including in the Iraq War. I am heartened by the evangelical Christian outreach to the Jewish community.”  

Let us make sure our “evangelical Christian outreach” multiplies. We must not remain silent on the sidelines like the German church in the 1930s. Our Christian faith was built on the rock of ancient Judaism. We are grafted into Israel, our spiritual homeland, and read a Jewish-inscribed Bible and serve a Jewish Savior. Standing with the Jewish community in the United States and worldwide is an important way to honor the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s redemptive plan! Reach out to your Jewish friends with encouragement this week!  

This article originally appeared here and is reposted with permission.

A speaker and consultant, Arlene Bridges Samuels authors the weekly feature column for The Christian Broadcasting Network/Israel on their Facebook and Blog since 2020. Previously she pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Retiring after nine years, she worked part-time for International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA as Outreach Director for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, often traveling to Israel since 1990. By invitation she attends the Israel Government Press Office (GPO) Christian Media Summits as a recognized member of Christian media worldwide. Read more of her articles at CBN Israel blog.

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