In the hours after the terrorist group Hamas invaded Israel and killed hundreds of Jews on Oct. 7, worshipers at Adath Israel Congregation sang the words “Am Yisrael Chai” – “The people of Israel will live.”
The message that Adath Israel congregants sought to deliver is that despite the “heinous” attacks against Jews, “our people will prevail,” Rabbi Benjamin Adler said.
Congregants were celebrating the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah when the attacks occurred. The holiday marks the end of the year-long reading of the Torah, or the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.
Although the attacks happened on the holiday, Adler said the congregation was determined to carry out the holiday celebration. It had been planned in advance of the weekend, not knowing that it would be disrupted by Hamas’ attacks.
“While it was hard, we went through with the celebration. As I told my congregation, Jews have been celebrating holidays for millennia, even in the midst of oppression and persecution,” he said.
“This is no time to abandon our tradition. In fact, it is in community and ritual that we find comfort,” he said.
The words of the song “Am Yisrael Chai,” which congregants sang during the celebration Saturday night and Sunday morning, expressed and reinforced the certainty that the Jews will survive, Adler said.
At Temple Micah, which meets at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, Rabbi Eli Perlman called for support for Israel.
For many years, Israel’s allies have pressured it to stop defending itself against constant rocket attacks, shooting, bus explosions and bombings that targeted innocent civilians, Perlman said in a message to the congregation.
The rockets and ammunition were stored in hospitals, schools and other public places where innocent civilians were used as human shields, he said.
“Still, the world’s twisted leaders defined an illogical moral equivalency between the goals of the terrorists and Israel,” Perlman said.
“On the holiday Oct. 7, the ability of people to define a moral equivalency between the terrorists and Israel was exposed for the entire world to see,” he said.
“The free world and good people everywhere are now unequivocally supporting Israel. We now see people from all over the world coming together to support the State of Israel,” Perlman said.
Since the Abraham Accords, many of its past enemies signed on or were in the process of negotiating peace and trade agreements with Israel, he said.
The Abraham Accords sought to normalize diplomatic relationships between Israel and neighboring Arab countries.
But now, Israel has declared war on internationally recognized terror organizations, Perlman said.
Israel is focused on freeing the Gaza Strip of all terrorists. It is not going to be a short war, and many people will lose limbs and even their lives, he said.
Israel has told civilians to leave Gaza because, unlike the terrorists who are targeting civilians, it does not want to harm innocent people, Perlman said.