In an dramatic show of unity with Israel, about 900 North American Jews — include eight from Seattle – are in Israel this week on a special United Jewish Communities (UJC) Solidarity Mission.
The contingent, representing 70 Jewish communities across the continent, is the largest group of North American Jews on a UJC-sponsored Solidarity Mission since the latest conflict between Israelis and Palestinians began last year.
Seattle participants include Barry Goren, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle; Ken Weinberg, executive director of Jewish Family Service; Rabbi Dan Bridge, executive director of Hillel at the University of Washington; Rabbi Scott Sperling of Temple De Hirsch Sinai; Rabbi Jonathan Singer of Temple Beth Am; Carol Gown, Joseph Voss and Michele Rosen, volunteer leaders in the community.
“The size of this mission is unprecedented, and immensely significant,” said Robert M. Schrayer, chairman of the UJA Federation Campaign of UJC. “During this time of continuing conflict in the Middle East, when it is critically important for Israelis and the world to realize the immutable bonds of unity that exist between Israel and Jews in North America, we continue to exhibit that in every way we can.”
The mission, Solidarity VII, is the latest in a series that began in October, shortly after the outbreak of the current conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Since the first Solidarity Mission, and including similar missions scheduled in months to come, more than 2,200 North American Jews have exhibited or plan to show their unity with Israel by participating in a UJC Solidarity Mission.
Dovetailing with Solidarity VII is the arrival in Israel of more than 7,500 young Jews from throughout North America for the Birthright Israel program. Birthright Israel, funded by UJC, the government of Israel, and private philanthropists, is an opportunity for young Jews age 18 to 26 who have never been to Israel to visit the country on a peer, educational group experience.
Solidarity VII participants will meet with government officials, Israeli Defense Force personnel, business people and residents to fact-find, discuss the current situation, explore solutions and offer support.
“Nearly 1,000 community representatives are visiting Israel in the coming week and, by so doing, are countering the isolation that many Israelis may be feeling,” Mr. Schrayer said. “These North American mission participants are representing not only themselves, but the millions of Jews in communities across the continent who are unified with the people of Israel.”
Participants arrived in Israel January 6–8 and depart January 12–14.
“At this most difficult period for the people of Israel, it is absolutely critical that they know the Jews of North America stand with them in solidarity,” said UJC President and CEO Stephen D. Solender. “The arrival of so many national and federation leaders at this time is a clear statement of our concern, compassion and solidarity.”
United Jewish Communities, formed from the recent merger of United Jewish Appeal, the Council of Jewish Federations and United Israel Appeal, is the dominant fund-raising arm for North American Jewry, and represents 189 Jewish federations and 400 independent communities across the continent. It reflects the values and traditions of education, leadership, advocacy and social justice, and continuity of community that define the Jewish people.