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Eight students at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav were massacred March 6 by a Hamas terrorist.

Philly Rally
Kaddish for victims of Jerusalem bombing.

-- Bruce S. Ticker

A small but resolute group of mostly Philadelphia-area Jews recited Kaddish for the eight students massacred in Jerusalem and received assurances of support for Israel from the Clinton and Obama camps during a rare Israeli solidarity rally at Love Park across the street from City Hall.

With biblical undertones, the March 19 rally was held at noon as scheduled during a break in the rain. One onlooker quipped, “That is no accident.“ The low-turnout rally, drawing 400 people, was not covered by the main general-circulation daily newspapers that cover Philadelphia.

“It is raining almost every day in Israel,” declared Rabbi David Gutterman, referring to the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza onto Sderot and elsewhere in southern Israel. “It is a reign of terror. We will not be cowed. We are standing up against a reign of terror.”

The rabbi, who moderated the rally, recounted Israel’s peace gestures in contrast to Arab terrorism that culminated in the shooting deaths of eight male students on March 6 at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in west Jerusalem. He is executive director of VAAD: Board of Rabbis.

Rabbi Gutterman led the recitation of Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, midway into the rally. Participants who seconds earlier cheered the speakers, including students who also chanted, danced and held signs in support of Israel, fell into solemn prayer.

Democratic presidential rivals U.S. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama conveyed messages of support for Israel. through Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, for Clinton, and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, for Obama. Schakowsky, who is Jewish, represents many Jewish neighborhoods on the North Side of Chicago and near North suburbs such as Skokie and Evanston. She is the Democrats' chief deputy whip in the House of Representatives.

Nutter said Clinton asked him to reaffirm “her strong support for Israel.” The mayor added, “This terrorism must stop. Until it comes to an end, it is difficult to see how there can be peace on this bloodsoaked land.”

Reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen www.DryBonesBlog.blogspot.com

Clinton, Obama and Sen. John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee for president, have all taken positions in strong support of Israel. In fact, McCain toured Sderot the same day as part of a world tour. This tour has been widely viewed as an effort to make Senator McCain appear presidential in contrast to Clinton and Obama as they continue to slug it out.

Five members of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, attended the rally, said Steve Masters of West Mt. Airy, the organization’s president. Brit Tzedek earlier issued a public statement seeking to form a delegation to the rally “to represent a pro-Israel, pro-cease fire, pro-negotiated peace voice in the Jewish community.”

Thanking American Jews for their support of Israel, Consul General Uriel Palti said, “We feel your support in Israel. We face serious threats. The Palestinians had an opportunity to be a partner in peace. Today we see very structured organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah who seek to destroy us. We must do all we can in defending Israel.”

Leonard Barrack, trustees chairman of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, pointed to numerous Federation programs - including sponsorship of this rally - aimed at helping Israel. “We have an obligation to help keep this promise (of Israel) alive,” he said. “We understand that Israel will defend itself against this terror.”

This rally was the first of its kind sponsored by Federation since July 2006 when local Jews stood in solidarity with Israel during its two-front war with Hamas and Hezbollah. The 2006 rally was held at the same location.

Cantor Marshall Portnoy of Main Line Reform Temple in Lower Merion led attendees in singing the American National Anthem and then Hatikvah, Israel’s anthem.

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