When the March for Israel was announced just a week before it took place, North Shore Hebrew Academy decided that it was not only vital to attend — but to do so with as many middle school and high school students, faculty, and community members as possible.
So, at 5:45 am on Tuesday, November 14, over 350 students and parents gathered on campus to daven Rosh Chodesh Kislev Shacharit and enjoy muffins before setting out on the daylong journey to Washington, DC. The NSHA caravan included 9 buses — eight with students and faculty and one with community members.
Wearing blue, Israeli-flag embossed NSHA beanies to both show their support and stand out in the crowd, students descended right in front of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Most of the students had visited the museum in the past, and the symbolism was not lost on them. They were there to stand up for Israel and the Jewish people following the most devastating massacre since the Holocaust and as antisemitism continues to rise at alarming rates.
Unbeknownst to the students, everything they had done to support Israel since October 7th led up to this rally. Just the evening before, NSHA families headed to JFK Airport to greet families of Israeli hostages with love and support and then accompanied them to pray at the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s grave. Over the past several weeks, NSHA students had written countless letters to Israeli soldiers, baked challot for the return of Israeli hostages, fundraised for Israel, recited all of Tehillim 27 times as a group, hung posters of Israeli hostages, taken action against antisemitism in their own community, and so much more.
Now, under the deep blue sky, with the Capitol to one side, and the Washington Monument to the other, and Israeli flags waving across the sea of people, they found themselves surrounded by nearly 300,000 people from across the country whose past several weeks had similarly been filled with standing up for Israel. Our students reunited with camp and youth group friends, feeling unified in their support for Israel. That afternoon, the massive global movement for Israel became real before their eyes.
The program itself was incredibly moving with speakers that showed them the continued importance of their critical support for Israel. The family members of Israeli-American hostages beseeched the crowd to continue to demand their loved ones’ return immediately. Rachel Goldberg, the mother of 23-year-old Hersh Goldberg-Polin, asked, “Why is the world accepting that 240 human beings from almost 30 countries have been stolen and buried alive?”
Mijal Bitton, Shalom Hartman Research Fellow, recounted her Jewish friends, relatives, and neighbors who were persecuted and murdered for being Jewish — from Argentina to Egypt to Syria. She said, “I stand here for all of us who remember that in every generation, they stand up to destroy us and for all of us that thank God that America and Israel changed the world and became our safe haven.” She called on each and every person there to fight against hatred — and for life.
When the Maccabeats sang “Acheinu,” NSHA students swayed arm in arm with classmates, camp friends, and people they had only just met who had traveled hundreds if not thousands of miles to be there to support Israel.
Fortunately, students encountered very few protestors, though they had been told by NSHA faculty not to engage with them if they did. Following the march, students davened mincha on the Mall and in front of the Washington monument before retracing their steps to the Holocaust Museum and boarding the bus home.
As Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Kobrin, Executive Director Laura Cohen, and President Daniella M. Muller ’91 wrote in an email, “Our trip to Washington D.C. was filled with incredible moments as we all consciously and proudly made American and Jewish history. We were so proud of our students, our teachers, and the parents who joined us and who supported us from afar. We are at our best when our diversity and our unity come together, and Tuesday on the Mall, we felt that as a school and as a people.”
With the war raging on and our hostages still not home, NSHA’s tireless work to support Israel continues. The March for Israel gave students the opportunity to glimpse just how many people are standing with Israel — and a powerful boost of energy to continue these vital efforts.
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