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The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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June 17, 2024

Jews4Change attends vigil for victims of Hamas attacks on Israel

Nikhita Dass
The vigil followed Hamas’ attacks on Israel that killed roughly 1,300 Israelis and captured an estimated 150 hostages.

Whitman club Jews4Change attended a vigil at Congregation Har Shalom to show solidarity with Israel on Oct. 12. The vigil followed Hamas’ attacks on Israel that killed roughly 1,300 Israelis and captured an estimated 150 hostages. 

At 7:30 p.m., crowds congregated in the main room of the synagogue for the beginning of the vigil and heard a speech about the strength of the Jewish community from Har Shalom Rabbi Adam Raskin. Congregation Har Shalom was filled with elected officials, individuals from other congregations and community members, many of whom gave speeches after Raskin. 

“Tonight we gather as an extended Jewish family in mourning,” Raskin said in his speech. “We are grief stricken, and horrified and sickened by the violence and death that has engulfed our people in Israel.”

Jews4Change is a Whitman club devoted to fighting anti-Semitism and promoting Holocaust education in MCPS. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington invited Jewish Student Unions and clubs in Montgomery County to participate in the vigil. 

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After Raskin’s speech, members of MCPS Jewish Student Unions and Jews4Change led a candle lighting ceremony. 

Maryland Senator Cheryl Kagan, County Council President Evan Glass, County Council Vice President Andrew Friedson and Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin were among the many political figures at the vigil. Raskin discussed the effects of the attacks on not only Israeli people but Palestinians as well and urged the release of hostages by Hamas.

“The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] has reported that the total blockade of food, water, fuel and medical supplies to Gaza will not end until the hostages are released,” Raskin said. “They must be released immediately therefore, both for their own safety and security and for the safety of two million civilians in Gaza who have been turned into hostages as well by the lethal criminality and derangement of Hamas.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Anti-Defamation League, as well as other additional groups, hosted the vigil in partnership with Har Shalom. 

Eliav Benjamin, the Deputy Head of Mission for the Embassy of Israel attended the vigil and was grateful to see such unity within the Jewish community. 

“It’s a beautiful thing to witness a community stand together in the face of challenges,” Benjamin said at the vigil. “Israelis stand shoulder to shoulder in sorrow, compassion and unity. We are thankful for the elected officials who are committed to protecting schools, synagogues and community centers.”

MCPS officials released a statement on Oct. 10 responding to the Hamas attacks on Israel this past weekend. However, community members criticized MCPS for the generalization of the statement, leading Superintendent Monifa McKnight to issue a follow-up communication on Oct. 11 in response to the backlash from the original statement. 

Jews4Change founder Rachel Barold, a sophomore, attended the vigil and participated in the candle-lighting ceremony. She is grateful for the support of her community at this time, she said. 

“As a Jewish person, it’s really upsetting to see people be murdered and tortured and raped and kidnapped in Israel,” Barold said. “I thought that coming together as a community of Jewish people would be helpful for not only myself but everyone and coming together as a community is really important to us in the Jewish religion.” 

In addition to Jews4Change, Jewish Student Unions from Walter Johnson High School,  Winston Churchill High School and others in the surrounding area also attended the event and were invited to lead the candle-lighting alongside Jews4Change. 

After the candle-lighting, Congressman Jamie Raskin underscored the brutality of Hamas’ actions since the invasion seven days ago.

“The terrorist atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians over the last six days constitutes the most murderous assault on Jews on earth since the Holocaust,” Jamie Raskin said during the vigil. “The world is in shock over this unspeakable destruction from this twenty-first century pogrom. A program which has traumatized not just millions of citizens in Israel and millions of Jews all over the world, they traumatized every person who believes in peace and the basic rights of human beings.”

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About the Contributor
Nikhita Dass
Nikhita Dass, News Writer
Grade 11 Why did you join The B&W? I wanted to be able to share news on current events and issues with my community. What is your favorite board game? Monopoly

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