How to be an ally to Jews in these difficult times


It is now almost eight weeks since Hamas perpetrated horrific attacks, including murders, kidnappings, and sexual violence, on innocent Israeli civilians of all ages from the very young to the very old. In the week after the attack, someone sent me a moving blog meant to help the wider community understand our trauma with a title that has remained poignant for me: “Your Jewish friends are not OK right now.” 

We are still not OK. 

And now, the circle of people not OK is steadily widening. With an estimated 75 percent of Palestinians in Gaza displaced, and a heartbreaking number of children killed in the war, Palestinians in Gaza and their families in the U.S. and around the world are also not OK. 

And in addition to the grief from events far away, here at home both anti-Semitic and Islamophobic attacks in the U.S. are rising. Jews encounter hate on professional listservs, college campuses, on social media, and on the street. Palestinians do as well, and just this past week, three Palestinian college students were shot in Burlington, Vt., in what appears to be a hate crime. A sense of fear and threat has been added to our grieving. And we are all not OK.

So for those who want to be an ally to Jews during these impossibly difficult times, what might this look like? Before I answer this question, it is important to understand that no one speaks for all Jews — not the government of Israel, nor large Jewish organizations, nor rabbis like me. I do, however, want to share my own thoughts from a place of humility.

How can we be an ally to Jews during these difficult times? First, please see the trauma, pain, and fear we are carrying. Most of us have friends and family who live in Israel. And almost all Israelis have buried loved ones or attended funerals for close friends and family members. Many others are in utter pain, worry, and dread as they fear for their friends and family members who have been kidnapped. For those who have survived, there are about 200,000 internal refugees in Israel since Oct. 7, in need of the most basic services. Siren warnings of missiles from the North continue, sending children to bomb shelters. And Israelis have been exposed through verified news reports to the violent details of Hamas’s butchery and sexual violence that have added to the trauma. 

And what increases the pain is the intergenerational trauma many of us carry with us from the Holocaust, in which two-thirds of European Jews were murdered, and from which some of us still feel our survival as a people and culture is tenuous. So being an ally means seeing us in our vulnerability, and seeing the horror Israelis have lived through and can never forget. It means reaching out to your Jewish friends and neighbors, and for Jews as well to reach out to Israeli friends, just to show that we see and we care.

Second, please know that being an ally does not mean having a particular point of view. We are indeed united by our fervent prayers for the release of all hostages, our outrage toward Hamas’s atrocities, and a commitment to ensuring this can never happen again. Jews and our allies differ, however, on how to get there. Some advocate for the necessity of the continuation of the war as it is being fought, in order to end Hamas and prevent another Oct. 7. Others advocate for more targeted attacks against Hamas that would reduce civilian casualties. And yet others argue for either sustained humanitarian pauses or a ceasefire that would prioritize the freeing of all the hostages, end the heartbreaking killing of too many innocent civilians, and begin real negotiations for a lasting peace. Follow your conscience, and allow space for others to follow theirs.

Third, I believe that being an ally means supporting a shared future that gives both Jews and Palestinians safety, dignity, and freedom. Hamas is not the Palestinian people. One can be unequivocally opposed to Hamas and at the same time be for freedom for Palestinians. One can also disagree with the Israeli government’s policies both in Gaza and the West Bank and at the same time be for a safe and secure homeland for Jewish people. I believe that being an ally to Jews means being a vehicle for a peaceful future for all. 

Whatever your viewpoint or political perspective, how we communicate our convictions matters. All of us, no matter where we stand, must ask ourselves: Are we using words that hurt and inflame, or are we speaking in ways that engender kindness and understanding? Are we listening in humility to people’s experiences, fears, grief, or are we so sure we are right that we are willing to silence others? Are we acting only out of our anger and fear, or are we able to call upon our faith and act in the spirit of hope?

There are many organizations in Israel created by Israeli Jews and Palestinians that increase my hope for a better future. Those organizations include Standing Together, Women Wage Peace, Parents Circle-Families Forum, and the Sulha Peace Project. They are small points of light in a background of darkness, and must be nurtured.

Hanukkah is just a week away, so it is timely to recall that each spark of light, no matter how small, contains the potential for a miracle. Those small sparks are the seeds of a future where each of us is more than just OK. A future where each of us is recognized for the spark of the divine light that we carry within. For that future to be realized, every person must be an ally to all. And when that happens, in the words of Zechariah, “On that day, God will be one, and God’s name will be one.”


Broitman is rabbi at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center.


  1. The so called Palestinian people who have lived under the authority of Hamas since 2005 in Gaza have not once protested Hamas as their governing body. Nor have they condemned Hamas atrocities on Jews and non Jews. Your assertion that Palestinians are not Hamas is weak. Their preferred leader is a convicted terrorist, and significant majorities of Palestinians support terrorism, with even larger numbers opposing both a two-state solution and one-state solution with equal rights for Jews and Arabs.

    • The “so called Palestinian people”?
      No discrimination with that comment , huh ?
      It’s difficult to protest against a government run
      by ruthless terrorist thugs, who are willing
      to use innocent civilians as human shields
      in a time of war.
      And you should brush up on your history
      a little. Hamas gained control in June of 2007.
      Of course you know what the average palestinian
      thinks and wants. You are as likely to be correct about
      that as you are about “what liberals think”.
      Give it a break, andy

      • Keller so you agree they were voted in by Palestinian people. It is not me speculating as to what Palestinians think it is countless polls that tell us they support Hamas. Yes they are so called and an invented people. Everyone before 1948 had Palestinian written into their documents even Jews. Brush up on history. All of a sudden you are calling Hamas what they are but for the last 4 weeks this in your mind has been a ”nuanced” situation wherein both sides are culpable.

        • Israel opposes both a two-state solution and one-state solution with equal rights for Jews and Arabs (Jewish Arabs, Muslim Israelis?).

          Is Israel a Jewish state, a theocracy? Should the the US be the same but with a strong Christian bend?

          Yet again the monotheists are making a mess of things.
          There is but one God, my God is red hot, your God ain’t doodly squat.

    • “Very well said”? I don’t understand because you go on to rant on another page about “…the frothing hate filled paranoid 
privileged ‘chosen people’”.

      Why is it always those promoting the antisemitic narrative, “genocide!” and demanding a ceasefire now without surrender of the terrorists who always pretend they want kindness, peace, and are placid people, but then rage, rage, rage against those of us who love and support Israel? Why?

  2. How to be an ally to Jews, Christians Muslims, Agnostics, Atheists, LGBT+ and Homophobes in these difficult times?

  3. As a person who grew up catholic and continues to struggle with my own faith, you Rabbi have given me hope. Words to try to live by. Stay strong Rabbi and thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Keller so you agree they were voted in by Palestinian people. It is not me speculating as to what Palestinians think it is countless polls that tell us they support Hamas. Yes they are so called and an invented people. Everyone before 1948 had Palestinian written into their documents even Jews. All of a sudden you are calling Hamas what they are but for the last 4 weeks this in your mind has been a ”nuanced” situation wherein both parties are culpable.

    • Andy, the Palestinian people elected their leadership the same way we elect ours.
      They want the same kind of Government Israel wants, a theocracy.
      Theocracy is coming to America starting 1/20/25, Conservativism at it’s best.

    • andy
      Let me quote me ;

      “The attack on Saturday was a brutal act of terrorism
      by terrorist and cannot be condoned in any way.
      The Israeli response is predictable and will brutally
      take the lives of thousands of innocent civilians.”
      Oct 12

      “Terrorist attacks by Hamas and the inevitable
      response by Israel will only continue to fuel
      the fires of hatred.”
      also oct 12

      “Not everyone who has compassion
      for a community of over 2 million oppressed
      people hates Jews.”
      oct 13

      ” I have many times stated that Israel
      has a right to exist. I never implied
      otherwise. I offer comfort to anyone
      who is grieving and frightened.
      I have also never “stood up” for Hamas
      or any terrorist organization, including
      the proud boys .”
      oct 13

      “I am appalled at the violence– I do not
      think there is any rationale for Hamas
      terrorist to murder innocent israel civilians…”
      oct 14

      “I understand that Hamas is a terrorist
      organization. it won an election in 2006
      and has not allowed another election
      since. Gaza is not a terrorist state.
      It is a territory, largely controlled by Israel.
      It is clear that most of the people in Gaza
      do not support the terrorist activities of
      Hamas or Hamas’s goal of eradicating
      oct 16

      “I stand with Israel and the Jewish people.”
      oct 16

      “Let me be clear, the state of Israel has every right
      to exist. I hold no animosity towards any Jews.
      I also think the Palestinian people have a right to exist.
      Terrorism is not an acceptable course of action regardless
      of the circumstances.
      Israel has the right to defend itself.
      I condemn the terrorist of oct 7 and their actions.
      I condemn the policies, goals and actions of Hamas
      I think they are led by a bunch of ruthless radical
      nov 6

      “may I point out that Jews have always faced
      discrimination in this country. Indeed– it was not
      radical leftists led by the likes of Gretta Thornberg
      that were chanting “jews will not replace us” and
      “blood and soil” In charlottesville in 2017.
      The name of the “rally” was “Unite the right”, after all.”
      Nov 13

      “I have said it before and I will say it
      again. Violence begets violence.
      The brutal terrorist attack on Oct 7
      clearly prompted a justified response
      from Israel. The question is, what is
      justified ?
      A minister from the extremist Otzma Yehudit
      party says one of Israel’s options in the
      war in Gaza is to drop a nuclear bomb
      on the Strip, for Israel to re-take the land,
      and allow any survivors to move to Ireland ?
      or a desert. I don’t think anyone but crazy people think
      that is any kind of option…”
      nov 18

      “Very few things said by either side can
      be fully verified at this point. Such is the fog of war.
      But I think it is without question that Hamas is
      using innocent civilians as human shields
      and hiding in hospitals.
      That is a war crime and Hamas needs to be
      dismantled, and their leaders need to be brought to
      justice, whether dead or alive.”
      nov 18

      And, yes, I have disagreed with some
      of Israel’s’ policies, but I have never
      compared the actions of Israel to
      those of hamas.
      “nuanced” or otherwise.

      I would appreciate it if you didn’t
      lie about my opinions or words.

      • “I have never compared the actions of Israel to those of hamas.”

        Yes, you have:
        “I stand with Israel and the Jewish people. But I do not condone genocide.” ~Don Keller, less than 10 days after the pogram

        You have indeed compared Israel’s legitimate response to defend and protect itself and destroy Hamas with the loud and proud genocidal goals of Hamas and Islamic extremist terrorists. More than once you have used the word GENOCIDE to describe Israel defending itself in a war they did not start or want but was visited upon them and their innocent civilians. It is untrue, unfair, and anti-Israel and antisemitic to repeat this lie that Israel is genocidal toward Palestinians. Again, do you need it spelled out how the IDF goes to unheard of lengths to try to spare civilians being used as shields in a war zone? And still, the lie about Israel being genocidal continues– because antisemites continue saying it.

        It’s sad when someone lists all the times they did not say something that promotes antisemitism, but leaves out the antisemetic part that followed, “I stand with Israel and the Jewish people”. BUT I DO NOT CONDONE GENOCIDE. The defensive list becomes undone entirely by promoting the actual in context, antisemetic lie that Israel is committing a genocide by defending and protecting itself from monsters at the door. The genocidal goals and actions are those of extremist Islamists like Hamas. Not Israel.

        I don’t get how someone can deny his antisemitic statements that are in black and white and public.

        And what was that you said about “rabid Zionists”? That didn’t make your list, either.

      • Keller I dont care about your quotes. You have shown me who you are. You have for years told us we are racists and white supremacists and religiously intolerant and homophobes and you have accentuated that we dont even realize it. Well this time you dont realize what you are.

  5. Why do Jewish Liberals, those with a pure and loving heart, have to bend over backwards not to seem too, too overly supportive of Israel’s right to exist and protect and defend itself too, too much– from those trying to destroy it, and from those cheering on those trying to destroy it? Why must all Jews tiptoe around asking for support from liberal left former friends who carry on like stop-the-killing maniacs without knowing history, culture, or current events. Or truth. Or their own bias against Jews?

    This pause ended because Hamas stopped returning hostages, breaking the deal. Why do respectable, intelligent people glom onto antisemitic sources for their news on Hamas’s war on Israel, ignoring Israeli sources or not believing them? Why do antisemitic liberals believe the ones who behead babies and not the ones who escort to safer grounds the civilian population of their enemy combatants? Why are Jews who support Israel, who wish for Israel to stay safe from those sworn to obliterate it, accused of being Zionist! Colonialist! Genocidal! Arab hater! Oppressor! Full of hate! Why are the liberal left dismissive of the fact that more than 70% of Gaza and West Bank Palestinians view the October 7th pogrom favorably? Cheered it. Had their kids pass out sweets to celebrate it. The Arab sources that are giving this information, having conducted the surveys, are the only antisemitic sources that liberals are NOT glomming onto. It doesn’t fit their false narrative. Yes, there are innocent Palestinians, thousands and thousands of them, as well as thousands and thousands not-so-innocents. And every civilian death is still a tragedy. A tragedy that lays at the feel of Hamas. Not Israel. Not Jews in America in college. Or in any city in the world where they are being attacked. Friday there were 15 bomb threats at NY synagogues. Newspapers have taken to calling hate crimes “pranks”– when Jews are targeted but there’s no actual blood spilled.

    Jews supporting Israel’s right to exist have to be careful to be more caring than normal for enemy combatant civilians, otherwise they’re ignorant, genocidal Islamaphobes– I’ve been called that by 2 antisemites who comment here, though I’ve always wanted all innocents to be protected and comforted. I can’t print what i’ve been called on social media. Jews supporting Israel are supposed to ignore the fact so many innocent Palestinians have fully charged cellphones and are well fed and energetic in their videos, hooting and hollerihg and jumping on Red Cross vehicles getting hostages out of Gaza. And then, when the antisemite liberal left claim that IDF maps for a safe escape route for Palestinian civilians in the south, the antisemites claim “but they have no cell service”. And so what if hundreds of “innocents” were in the 3rd wave of attack on 10/7, bringing back hostages and paid to do it. So what if throngs of “innocents” spat on the raped, dead body of a girl paraded in the streets of Gaza? So what if “innocents” are hiding imprisoned hostages all over Gaza, to the point where Hamas does not know where they are? Who does more for civilians of their enemy’s than Israel? Who? Who tore their hair out when the US and Allies bombed Nazi occupied areas, killing so many innocents who happened to agree with Nazi ideology? No one. Certainly not the parents and grandparents of the liberal left who raised inclusive, open-minded, non-racist antisemites who support every imaginable minority-du-jour they can possibly empathize with– except Jews. And who started the war committing crimes against humanity with promises it will happen again and again, after breaking all international laws against housing arms and military infrastructure in hospitals, schools, and residential neighborhoods?

    A Christian member of the clergy wrote a letter to the editor of this newspaper, in a supposed Thanksgiving message and she said the following:

    “Isreal treats Palestinians as second-class citizens, Hamas attacks Isreal, Israel kills thousands in Gaza… Russia wants more territory, and attacks Ukraine. Ukraine has to fight back.”

    This is a veiled antisemitic view of Israel. It’s worse than “anti-israel”. It dismisses and minimizes the crimes against humanity commited against babies because the babies were Jews and not worth having to fight back for. Am I supposed to be kind about it? Why am I and one other person the only people in this community who dare speak out loud the truth of what this woman’s letter is saying? Antisemitism is so normalized that Christian clergy can spout it? Again? As in the 1930s and 40s?

    Protecting Israel is what nearly all Jews want, but no, that’s Zionism, a dirty word.
    Hamas stole from Gazans to build their military infrastruccture under hosptials, schools and residences, a war crime, leaving Gazans poor and unemployed shields but with fully charged cell phones. But it’s Israel is commiting war crimes by bombing Hamas using Palestinian children and Jewish hostages as shields?

    And we are encouraged to be kind about antisemitic lies?

    I’m done explaining why it’s not okay to promote antisemitism with Hamas propaganda and the usual Jew-hating lies that have been all over social media and even in this newspaper’s comments, letters, and now, an op-ed piece. Kindness won’t save a single Jew or Israel’s right to exist, just like it did not save Vivian Silver, an Israeli social worker who was dedicated to helping Gazans. She was slaughtered, as would be every Jewish and non-Jewish apologist who, rather insanely in my view, equates what Hamas plans to do to israel with what Israel must do to defend itself. Palestine could have been a place a long time ago in the last century– but for Jew-hatred.

    The insistence that this war is about land, occupation, artheid, colonization, and Zionism as a dirty word is not correct. It is about a death cult religion that would rather “martyr” it’s own children than allow for Israel’s existence and for any Jew to be alive. Period. Any other excuse or blame is failing to see reality. If this were not the case, there would have been a two-state solution many decades ago. Many do not want a free Palestine. They want a world free of Israel and all Jews.

    Hamas must be eliminated. Why aren’t the Ceasefire Now groups calling for Hamas to surrender and realease all the hostages? That would stop the killing in a falsh. So why don’t they? Because they do not want a surrender. They don’t give a hoot about innocent hostages.

    I will not be kind to antisemites or about antisemites. I dont agree with being kind toward Jew-Haters spouting false information. And I just am not good at pretending that Jew-hatred, nothing else, is not the issue.

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