Seeing the aftermath of the Hamas attack on Israel — the kidnappings, deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians — Rabbi Rob Lennick said the Jewish community can only feel grief and anger.
"We have been here before," said Lennick, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler Counties. "We have also overcome time and again. Our history is one in which our people have seen the depths of despair and the heights of hopefulness, and let's face it — everything in between. But through it all, our Jewish community near and far is resilient and we will continue to be."
To help with humanitarian needs in Israel, the local Jewish Federation organization has pledged $100,000 of its reserve funds. Lennick asked the community to help match it.
The announcement came during the Jewish Federation's community-wide vigil and memorial for Israel on Monday, Oct. 9, at Temple Beth El in Ormond Beach. The program featured prayers from local rabbis as well as speeches from elected officials and representatives from other faith groups.
The vigil came after Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, attacked Israel with thousands of rockets and sent fighters into the country in a surprise attack, according to global news reports. Israel responded with its own attack on the Gaza Strip and formally declared war on Sunday.
"What is going on in Israel now is catastrophic for its impacts for real people, living their daily lives, and in psychological terms as well, because once again, Israel's very right to exist, has been attacked," Lennick said. "But let me say to be perfectly more accurate: It's really about the rights of Jews to exists."
Marvin Miller, president of the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler Counties, said he and his wife will offer $1,000 to match the nonprofit's donation. Ormond Beach resident Lewis Heaster gave $10,000 and Rabbi Reuven Silverman also offered $500.
Since declaring its independence in 1948, Israel has fought and won numerous wars, Miller said.
"Every Arab country that fought [Israel] still exists," he said. "Just bear in mind, should Israel have lost one war, we'd have no history."
The city of Ormond Beach stands with its Jewish residents, said Mayor Bill Partington at the vigil. You are not alone, he said.
"The shocking terroristic acts by Hamas and the heart-wrenching toll it has taken on innocent lives are profoundly saddening and condemnable," Partington said. "No religious, political or ideological justification can ever legitimize the indiscriminate killing of civilians, or the acts of abducting innocent women, children and the elderly. The pain and harm inflicted upon the people of Israel is unimaginable, and we as a community denounce these acts of terror with the strongest possible conviction."
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who has been vocal in the past in his defense of the Jewish community against local antisemitic displays by a neo-Nazi group, called members of Hamas "terrorists."
"They are the blood-thirsty animals who are terrorists," Chitwood said. "Think of what they did — unarmed civilian population of men, women, children and grandmothers, and they assassinated them. That's what they need to be called."
Lennick said one of the ways to help Israel is to demand fair reporting from news outlets. He said there's a disconnect between who are the perpetrators and who are the victims.
"Too often those who try to harm Israel are called militants," Lennick said. "Well, I can tell you, the Hamas killers are not militants. They are not just combative and aggressive in support of a political cause. If we call them militants, it suggests that they're fighting for something worthy, calling for sympathy, or understanding. The Hamas perpetrators are murderous terrorists, plain and simple."