By Larry Domnitch
This past week marked the 37th annual Tisha B’Av prayer vigil in Manhattan on August 5. It was originally held at the Soviet UN Mission in Manhattan during the days of the struggle for the freedom for Soviet Jewry. As the Soviet Union began to break apart in 1991, the event moved to the Isaiah Wall opposite the United Nations. The event was sponsored by Amcha-Coalition for Jewish Concerns; co-sponsored by Americans for a Safe Israel and Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry.
For about two hours, crowds gathered, prayed, listened to the Torah reading, as well as speakers.
According to event organizer, Glenn Richter, “Tisha B’Av always reminds us of the difficulties the Jewish people have faced through the ages or face today. This year, Tisha B’Av was especially challenging because of the Gaza War, but Jewish history teaches us that we meet our challenges, survive and work to thrive.”
In Israel on a solidarity trip, Rabbi Avi Weiss, chairman of Amchah-Coailition for Jewish Concerns, addressed the crowd via cell phone on speaker played into a loudspeaker.
Rabbi Weiss spoke of his most recent experiences in Israel; attending the funerals of soldiers, visiting the families of the fallen, and visiting wounded soldiers in hospitals. He also spoke of two of his grandsons, soldiers in the IDF, who are fighting in the war. Rabbi Weiss concluded with words of hope, that at midday during Tisha B’Av, “we climb up from the valley of despair to the strong feeling that we will carry on.”
In a very poignant moment during the memorial Kel Male Rachamim prayer, the names of each of the sixty-one soldiers and three civilians who fell during operation Protective Edge were recited by event participants, along with their age, military rank, and hometown.
Mention was also made of Rabbi Avrohom Wallis, a father of six from the Mea Shearim section of Jerusalem, who was murdered in a terror attack in Jerusalem two days prior to Tisha B’Av.
Yossi Baumol, the executive director of American Friends of Sderot who resides in Israel, mentioned the extent of the dangers which Israel faced, “Had they used the tunnels on Rosh Hashanah as planned, they could have captured an entire town.” Baumel noted the recent surge of unity among the Jewish people and called upon the crowd to see “the spirit of Israel, when united, land calling its children home.” He expressed hope that someday the UN would be a world body that truly represents world unity as its name suggests.
Event participant, Charles Bernhaut, also noted that over the past month, Jews have been more unified despite differences, “The current crisis has brought the Jewish people together and together we are united in our grief and pain.”
Richter also noted on the unity of the Jewish people in the face of dangers, “It’s clear that no matter where one stands in the Jewish community, left to right religiously or politically, we felt an existential threat and therefore pulled closer together.”