On Monday night, Chabad on the Vineyard hosted about 50 people for its Israel Solidarity Vigil.
Speakers honored lives lost in Israel and Gaza, voiced support for Israel, and condemned Hamas.
Multiple politicians commented at the event, as did local political and Jewish leaders; actions were also recommended for those concerned.
The event began with a presentation on lives lost and the destruction caused during the conflict, with a focus on the more than 1,000 Israelis killed by Hamas, and on those abducted.
In his opening remarks, Rabbi Tzvi Alperowitz of Chabad illustrated the impacts of Hamas’ attacks by highlighting individual examples. He spoke about the relief of Israeli Thomas Hand, upon hearing that his daughter had been killed by Hamas, as opposed to abducted. Alperowitz also addressed the death of 5-year-old Eiten Kapister at the hands of Hamas, and directed the room’s attention to a photo of Kapister at the end of the event’s pamphlet. The same page named 163 Israeli hostages taken by Hamas.
Alperowitz spoke strongly in support of Israel’s defense, and against the actions of Hamas. “I beg you, please don’t ever allow yourself to fall into that trap and think that there could be any possible context or any excuse whatsoever for such actions,” he said. “When the pain is so raw, it’s hard to speak, but it’s even harder to remain silent.”
Rabbi Caryn Broitman of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, spoke next. “We stand together as … one Jewish community on the Island, sharing our grief, and finding comfort in our connection to goodwill toward each other,” said Broitman.
Tisbury town administrator John Grande also offered words of support for Israel. “We all hold common purpose with Israel at this hour. We are one community tonight. We all have hope, and pray for a better future for all peoples.”
A statement was then made on behalf of Rep. Bill Keating, and was given in person by Michael Jackman of Keating’s office. “There are no ‘both sides’ when the stated goal of Hamas is to destroy Israel and to murder the Jewish people as a whole,” read Jackman. “It is the role of the United States and the rest of the free world to stand with Israel and support it as it defends itself, as it responds to this barbaric attack.”
The second prominent political figure to address the audience was Meron Reuben, Israel’s consul general to New England. In a prerecorded video message, Reuben praised President Biden’s words of commitment to Israel, and praised responses from New England. “In the last week, I’ve had the honor of being in rallies and solidarity meetings all over New England — in Massachusetts, in Rhode Island, in Connecticut and New Hampshire — and the outpouring of grief and the solidarity that we have felt is really something that strengthens our resolve,” said Reuben.
Reuben also shared Israel’s goals for those held by Hamas: “We do not know the situation of all the captives, and first and foremost, our main focus is to get the kidnapped back to Israel as soon as possible.”
Reuben then outlined Israel’s military goals: “We are going to have to reply and do something that we have not done before, and that is to damage the terrorist infrastructure on the other side of the fence, and reach a situation in which no terrorist group again from Gaza will be able to harm Israeli citizens like they did previously.”
Alperowitz then introduced State Senator Julian Cyr, who had recently attended a special Shabbat service on Cape Cod. “I think at times like these, it’s important to show up, and sit in solidarity; particularly, you know, the Jewish community has been in solidarity with so many other movements for justice,” said Cyr.
Cyr then read a resolution from the state Senate that condemned Hamas, recognized Israel’s right to defense, mourned thousands of victims of Hamas violence, and called for the return of Israelis, Americans, and other captives.
Betsy Sheerr of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee spoke next, and recommended three actions for those concerned about the conflict. “The first option is to reach out and speak out … if you know people in Israel, draft them a note. Tell them you’re thinking about them; tell them they’re not alone,” said Sheerr.
Sheerr also recommended sharing trusted information on social media, asking elected officials to take action, and asking alma maters to condemn the spread of hatred and take meaningful actions.
Finally, Sheerr asked people to “distinguish from the desire for two states, and the desire for a Palestine from the river to the sea.”
Sheerr also addressed points of debate surrounding the conflict, including concerns of Palestinian civilian deaths during Israel’s military response. Yesterday evening, Reuters estimated the Palestinian death toll from Israeli bombardment at about 3,000.
“Israel is not at war with the Palestinian people. Israel is at war with Hamas … Hamas is not seeking a two-state solution — as I imagine most of us in this room and indeed many Israelis are. Hamas is solely dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and the killing of Jews.
“Another fiction to combat is that Israel doesn’t care about civilians. Nothing could be further from the truth. Israel does not want to harm innocent Palestinian civilians. In fact, the Israeli military has a policy and a track record of dropping leaflets to alert citizens and civilians to evacuate. They’re trying to the best ability that they can to enable Gaza civilians today to get to a safe place.”
Sheerr then stated that Hamas purposefully targets civilians, and places children in mosques and hospitals where terrorist weapons are hidden.
The night concluded with the lighting of Yahrzeit candles in memory of the deceased. Attendees were encouraged to light candles at Chabad, or to take them home to light.
Alperowitz, speaking after the event, expressed his gratitude for the response he has received from Vineyarders. “Martha’s Vineyard is a very diverse Island, we’re a diverse community, and people have come together to support. I’ve received so many messages from people around the Island — neighbors, people who I’ve never heard from.”
Alperowitz also says that Chabad’s programming is changing after the attacks: “In memory of those who are lost, we will be starting new programs, [including] a Sunday morning prayer group … We have put an emphasis on lighting the Shabbat candles Friday night in memory of those who are lost. And we’ve started a weekly parshah class, a weekly Torah class … in person and in Zoom, where people can study the weekly Torah in memory of those who are lost.”