One Sky, One People: The American Jewish Response to the War in Israel


My great-grandfather, Chaim Frieber, arrived in New York from Krakow as a young man at the turn of the twentieth century. Recently, my mother shared with me an eight-page memoir he wrote with the help of his daughter, vividly chronicling his experiences in Krakow. Within these pages, he recounts stories about his grandfather, the cantor in the Alte shul, singing in the shul choir, and various other cherished moments with his family and the vibrant Krakow Jewish community. My mother found her aunt’s copy of the memoir, on the back of which she recorded a memory with her father, my great-grandfather, from 1939.

One night in New York, as she walked alongside her father in the park in comfortable silence, he suddenly halted, gazing upwards at the stars. She realized then that he was quietly weeping, and asked him, “What’s the matter?” He replied, “זיי הרגענען די אידן. זיי הרגענען די אידן”, which, translated from Yiddish, means, “They are killing the Jews. They are killing the Jews.” In that moment, as he stood with his daughter beneath the safety of the sky in New York, he felt the pain of the Jews in Europe being exterminated under the very same stars. He passed away before the full extent of the Holocaust was known. 

This story holds a profound resonance and relevance for American Jews today. Despite the vast ocean that separates us from the suffering of our people at the hands of Hamas, our emotional proximity is palpable. According to the Pew Research Center, eight in ten American Jews across all denominations assert that their connection to Israel is an essential part of what being Jewish means to them. There are countless anecdotes of individuals, regardless of their religious levels, rekindling and elevating their Jewish identities since the horrific events of October 7.  By October 18, more than 2,600 men had requested tefillin through one Chabad campaign set up in memory of those murdered in Israel. In addition, challah bakes are being held worldwide. In one case, more than 500 women participated in an annual challah bake hosted by Adath Israel Congregation in Cincinnati, Ohio in honor of the hostages. And countless Jews are active members of Tehillim chats and spreadsheets, incorporating prayer into their daily routines in order to storm the heavens. The very term “diaspora” denotes dispersion, and yet in our separation, we have never been more unified. 

Most conflicts are geographically confined, but the attacks on the Israeli people transcend anti-Zionism and have reverberated around the world as blatant anti-Semitism. Hamas’ ominous call for the complete extermination of Jews harks back to the Holocaust, and even for those not religiously observant, this threat does not feel like a mere statistic or news article; it is etched into the very fabric of Jewish identity and the Jewish soul.  

Although American Jews are perhaps the most culturally diverse and geographically dispersed of the diaspora, we stand united. In a powerful demonstration of solidarity, as of October 26, the Jewish Federations of North America raised nearly $554 million for their emergency campaign in support of Israel. On October 11, over 10,000 American Jews assembled opposite the United Nations Headquarters for a historic rally and vigil. It was the largest and most unified show of support for Israel by American Jews in decades, but not for long. An estimated 12,000 people gathered in Central Park on November 6 in support of the hostages, calling for their release. And American Jews and righteous gentiles from across the country flew into Washington, D.C. on November 14. The 290,000 people that gathered on the National Mall made this the largest pro-Israel gathering of all time.

This unity surpasses mere solidarity with our compatriots in Israel; it is a testament to the unwavering Jewish commitment to the safety and well-being of our homeland. It is an affirmation of our collective identity in the face of the ever-present specter of anti-Semitism. It is a reminder that the key to resilience lies in our ability to contribute to society without forgetting our heritage. Amid today’s prevailing culture which glorifies unrestrained individualism, the Jewish community stands out by celebrating both individuality and a profound sense of duty to something greater. 
In the midst of this harrowing tragedy, Jews have received a precious reminder that our unity knows no geographical boundaries. We are all under the same sky and look at the same stars, bound by a shared identity and tradition—and a commitment to preserving them across time and space. 

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