Israeli-Hamas war: Blinken meets Saudi Arabia heir apparent as Israel prepares for invasion

Soldiers in uniform stand and sit on a tank.

At Temple Micah in Washington, the president of the synagogue is preparing on Saturday to fulfill his duty to inform the church of normal business when he pauses and seems to be in critical condition. Then he spoke.

“These are just announcements and I was emotional before writing myself,” said Brent Goldfarb.

For many American Jews who have joined the service today, there is too much emotion in the process. Horror and sorrow, anger and opposition. Fear of loved ones for an innocent life caught in the middle, for the future. And all of its weight seems overwhelming.

So being together, regardless of our beliefs, brings a level of peace.

All I have to do is get out of my house and be with my community Isabel Hochman, 23, attends a Saturday morning service at Rodeph Sholom Church in Manhattan.

What I saw was that Jews from all over the world came together. “Our community is fragmented, but we all came together last week,” Hochman said. I am talking about those who do not have family or friends who are Palestinians. I know their community is suffering too.

As Israeli leaders spent Saturday preparing for the invasion of Gaza, Jews in several US synagogues were in trouble with the scale of the devastation so far.

At Congregation Rodeph Shalom, the Reformed Synagogue in Philadelphia, Rabbi Elie Friedman led the Torah Sabbath study. He discusses the story of Cain and Abel and what it means to take care of your brother when the innocent lives of both Israel and Palestine are lost by the thousands.

He said that one hundred percent of Israel has the right to defend itself. “We have a responsibility to the innocent people of Gaza,” he added.

Rabbi Eli Freedman, head of the BNai Mitzvah service center at the Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia on Saturday.Credit …Rachel Wisniewski for the New York Times

Ruth Smith, who attended the Torah study, pushed for a peaceful solution. How many people can we kill for safety? She asked.

A week into the escalating war, Rabbi Sam Levin of the East Midwood Jewish Center wrote in a prepared address that was read to the congregation of the Conservative synagogue in Brooklyn. But he warned against giving up on seeking revenge on Hamas.

This is an instinct to get rid of. If not, how are we different? He wrote.

Some leaders have said that the presence of the church on Saturday is a statement in itself. At Temple Micah in Washington, Rabbi Healy Shir Slakman said that the meaning of Jewish identity is expressed when you are scared, and perhaps especially when you are scared. She said the community was a struggle.

In Los Angeles, Rabbi Nicole Gozik told the church at Synagogue Conservatory that by gathering, they were showing that the community spirit would not be divided and showing others in mourning that they were not. Not alone.

The pastor says that I have heard your cries and your anger, confusion and heartbreak. And instead of hiding under cover, you showed up.

But overall, a feeling shared by many people is just exhaustion with complex and often inconsistent feelings.

For 72-year-old Aliza Avital, thinking too much is too much. Her longtime friend Vivian Silver is the 74-year-old peace activist of Kibbutz Beeri, and she is believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas militants. Avital, a member of the East Midwood Jewish Center, said the two were among the founding members of another kibbutz in Israel in the 1970s.

There are so many feelings that it shocks his anger. “It was a nightmare,” she said. I keep saying this word over and over again. It was just a nightmare.

Peter Rabinowitz, 63, said being surrounded by his community at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City helped ease the pain and provide healing.

I can breathe. I can cry. I may wonder. I can try to reconcile everything that is happening, he said after the service. It’s nice to be there for each other.

Joel Wolfram In Philadelphia and Eliza Fawcett In New York City contributed to the report.

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