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Highlights From the South Florida Rabbinic Solidarity Mission to Israel

November 13-16, 2023

Photos of the 240 hostages held by Hamas, seen by the mission participants upon their arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport, immediately reminded them of Israel’s anguish.

Sharing his story: Rabbi Shmuel Slotki, the father of Noam and Yishai, who left their homes in Be’er Sheva on the first day after the attack and lost their lives saving many on Kibbutz Re’im. Rabbi Slotki is doing the agonizing work of identifying bodies and notifying families. Telling his story helps him process the grief he experiences.

A warehouse of Torahs waiting to be refurbished and sent to IDF bases across the country. Since the beginning of the war, Torahs are in demand and being sent to the fronts. Wanting to participate in daily Jewish ritual, many soldiers have also requested tzitzit, the four-cornered fringed garment worn by observant Jews.

One of many lots filled with the hundreds of burnt-out cars recovered from the Tribe of Nova music festival massacre and other locations from across Israel. Tragically, many innocent Israelis were killed in these cars trying to flee for their lives.

Sharing a moment of solidarity with members of IDF Unit 603 (left to right in foreground): Rabbi Claudio Kogan, of Temple Bet Yam (St. Augustine, Florida) and Director of Bioethics at Baptist Health; Rabbi Gary Glickstein, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach; and Rabbi Gayle Pomerantz, Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom.

A new memorial hall on Mount Herzl, where each day there is a service to honor not only the recently fallen soldiers, but also all who fell on that particular day since 1860. Each person’s name is read and soldiers stand at attention. Sadly, in the past month, a few hundred names have been read, recognizing the ultimate price of Israeli soldiers’ commitment to the Jewish homeland.

A meeting with Gal, a survivor of the Tribe of Nova music festival massacre, who was shot in his legs by a Hamas terrorist, lay bleeding for more than four hours beneath a barrier and almost died. At the hospital, the rabbis surrounded Gal and imparted blessings of healing.

At Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, the hospital’s director, Prof. Ofer Merin (left), shares a family’s story of tragedy and survival. Pictured to his right is Rabbi Yaakov Medan, a recognized rabbinic authority in Israel and a recipient of the Israel Prize. His son was critically wounded in the opening days of battle. Thankfully, the son’s prognosis is serious but good.

Rabbi Mario Rojzman of Beth Torah Benny Rok Campus and President of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami, leads Kaddish for the fallen soldiers at the new memorial hall on Mount Herzl.

Memorial plaques on Mount Herzl honoring some of the soldiers who died on October 7.

In this room on the IDF’s rabbinic base, Israeli families spend time with their loved ones’ remains prior to burial. So many bodies were recovered on the days following October 7 that the base expanded operations to identify civilians as well as IDF soldiers. The base needed to use all available techniques to identify bodies. The delegation of rabbis thanked the IDF rabbis for this holy work.

Rabbis meet with families of the fallen after burial on Mount Herzl. Here, the graves are not yet finished, and as the delegation was saying prayers, preparations were being made for the next funeral an hour later. This young widow is the mother of two and pregnant with her third child. She shared that her husband, a contractor living in Karnei Shomron, “ran to serve and was without fear.” He died at age 26.

Meeting with firefighters from the City of Miami Beach who traveled to Israel to support increased emergency needs due to the war. The head of the delegation, Captain Adonis Garcia, shared that he knew as a Christian he needed to respond. He and others were invited to partake in a barbecue hosted by the mission to honor them. The delegation of 12 firefighters was sponsored through the Greater Miami Jewish Federation in partnership with Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach.

A display that shows how the return of the hostages is like saving a world, as each person is a universe. The Hebrew below reminds us that “All of Israel is responsible for one another.”

Participating rabbis were:

Rabbi Alejandro Manuel Avruj, Comunidad Amijai (Argentina)

Rabbi Jesse Charyn, Bet Shira Congregation (Miami)

Rabbi Laila Haas Evans, Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education (Miami)

Rabbi Gary Glickstein, Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Beth Sholom (Miami Beach)

Rabbi Andrew Jacobs, Ramat Shalom Beth Israel (Plantation)

Rabbi Frederick Klein, Greater Miami Jewish Federation

Rabbi Claudio Kogan, Temple Bet Yam (St. Augustine) and Baptist Health

Rabbi Alan Litwak, Temple Sinai of North Dade

Rabbi Adam Miller, Temple Shalom of Naples

Rabbi Bennett Miller, Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple (New Brunswick, NJ)

Rabbi Eliot Pearlson, Temple Menorah (Miami Beach)

Rabbi Gayle Pomerantz, Temple Beth Sholom (Miami Beach)

Rabbi Mario Rojzman, Beth Torah Benny Rok Campus (Aventura)

Rabbi Jonathan Rothstein-Fisch, Temple Judea (Miami)

Rabbi David Spey, Temple Bat Yam of East Fort Lauderdale

Rabbi Eliezer Wolf, Beit David Highland Lakes Shul (Miami)

The photos above depict some of the experiences shared by the 16 rabbis who visited Israel during its ongoing war with Hamas. Other activities during the four-day mission included:

  • Seeing Miami’s partnership city of Yerucham, now home to 150 families from Southern Israel evacuated as a result of the war
  • Visiting Ashkelon to meet with Federation partner agency the Israel Trauma Coalition and see their work in action
  • Touring the Shura Army Base, home of the IDF’s rabbinate and one of a handful of sites in Israel where the dead are still being identified
  • Visiting with survivors of Kibbutz Kfar Aza and learning how The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Fund for the Victims of Terror is providing much-needed financial and emotional support
  • Volunteering at the logistics headquarters of Brothers and Sisters for Israel, a 100 percent civilian volunteer organization deploying assistance to farms and other sites throughout Israel requiring physical support
  • Meeting with the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, dedicated to bringing the hostages and those missing back home to their families
  • Hearing from Israel’s Director of Aliyah, as well as olim who were evacuated from an absorption center

To learn more about the South Florida Rabbinic Solidarity Mission, contact Rabbi Fred Klein at [email protected].