‘We had to be there’

Miami Valley Jews reflect on record-breaking pro-Israel march Nov. 14 in Washington

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

Actor Tovah Feldshuh opened the Nov. 14 March for Israel in Washington, D.C. with an impression of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, whom she has famously portrayed on stage.

Feldshuh told the estimated 290,000 people sprawled across the National Mall, one of the largest gatherings of Jews in American history, “As Prime Minister Golda Meir said, ‘Some people love you, and some people love you and show up.’ You show up, and that makes all the difference.”

Twenty-one people from the Miami Valley — from ages 20 to 80 — showed up that day for the rally, also billed as a march to free the hostages in Gaza and against the antisemitism that has exploded around the world since the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre and the Israel-Hamas war.

The rally’s main organizers were the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“We both felt we had to be there,” Karin Hirschkatz of Dayton said of herself and her husband, Dr. Neil Katz.

Thousands of demonstrators showed up in support of Israel on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Nov. 14. Photo by Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images.

“We’ve been wanting to do something, and we’ve been contacting our Congresspeople. I’m in touch with two youngish men that we housed a long time ago who are Israelis. My cousin is there.”

Their friends, longtime Daytonians Andy and Bill Franklin, also live in Israel.

Jennifer Holman, an artist who lives in Dayton, said she needed to do more than just have a voice on social media.

“I felt like it was important to try to get the numbers up there to show the voice of the community,” Holman said. She studies for conversion to Judaism with Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz at Temple Israel.

“It’s been a very difficult past month and a half,” Holman said. “It’s time for the hostages to be released. I’m just trying to be a part of that larger voice to be heard because it’s not a time to be silent right now.”

Hirschkatz, Katz, and Holman traveled to Washington with 11 others from the Dayton area aboard one of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s charter buses.

“We got on the bus to leave at 11:59 p.m., Nov. 13 in Cincinnati and arrived in D.C. after 11 a.m.,” Holman said. “We ended up getting back to Cincinnati at about 3:30 in the morning, Nov. 15 and were back in Dayton roughly at 4:45 a.m.”

(L to R): Celia Diamond of Yellow Springs with Dr. Neil Katz and Karin Hirschkatz of Dayton at the Nov. 14 March for Israel in Washington, D.C. Contributed.

They agreed it was worth it.

On the picture-perfect day, multitudes of participants chanted “Bring Them Home” in support of the hostages, and “Am Yisrael Chai,” the Jewish people lives, over a sea of Israeli flags. Thousands waved them; hundreds wore them as superhero capes.

“I felt a surprising sense of relief,” Hirschkatz said of the rally. “I have been feeling under a cloud since Oct. 7. I’ve been feeling more emotional than I have in my life.

Between feeling abandoned by all the movements that we have supported and by some friends — and the hostages and the war and the atrocities — being there was a release. I had a feeling of emotional peace I hadn’t had since Oct. 7. Hearing some of our Congresspeople speak made me feel a little less abandoned.”

Dayton’s new Jewish Community Relations Council director, Jeff Blumer, led the Dayton group.

Six other Jews from Dayton came by plane, including Beth Abraham Synagogue’s Rabbi Aubrey Glazer, his wife, Elyssa Wortzman, and their daughter, Tal.

On the Shabbat morning four days after the march, Glazer shared with his congregants an experience he had on the National Mall.

“So there I was, holding up a poster of one of the 240 captives that read ‘Kidnapped,’ with their image and age, when a young Israeli beside me asked for the sign. ‘Why do you want it?’ I asked. ‘It’s my friend from the Supernova (music festival).’ So we switched signs immediately, and then our daughter, Tal, went over to this Israeli she had never met before and offered her a hug, and they shed tears together. Those tears made the mystery of this gathering of those 300,000 — Jews and friends of Zion — much more tangible than I’d ever imagined.”

Beth Abraham Synagogue’s Rabbi Aubrey Glazer and his wife, Elyssa Wortzman, with their daughter, Tal, in D.C. Contributed.

Hirschkatz said she went to peace rallies during the Vietnam era and women’s marches but has never experienced a rally this large.

“Looking around and seeing all the young people — just hundreds, thousands of young people — that was wonderful. We were very concerned that there are not that many people who can just drop everything and go. And it was just amazing.”

Holman said she was impressed with the diversity of the Jews at the massive rally.

(L to R): Daytonians Adam Feiner, Devorah Schwartz, Tara Feiner, Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz, Jennifer Holman, Kit Brewer, and Masada Warner at the Nov. 14 March for Israel rally in Washington, D.C. Photo by Marshall Weiss.

“We had representation from Reform to Conservative to Reconstruction to Orthodox and I really appreciated that. I was so proud that people from all walks of Judaism came together. I was proud to see that people who were not Jewish came to show their support. It was really lovely to see, because if there is any time to unify, now is definitely a time.”

Along with their “jewishdayton” signs, Dayton-area people who joined the Cincinnati bus received bright yellow “Cincinnati Stands With Israel” T-shirts. Several said the color made it easy to spot others in their traveling group for miles in any direction across the Mall.

One of the most memorable moments of the day, Hirschkatz said, was when her yellow-shirted group was on the Metro and on its way to the rally.

“There was one gentleman who kept looking at us. And he finally said to me, ‘I like your shirt,’ and he applauded what we were doing, which was unexpected and very nice. That really touched me.”

Holman said she was glad to be at the rally but brokenhearted because of the reasons for it.

“I was excited to be a part of this though it’s terrible that there are hostages that have been held for 41 days, and it’s terrible that antisemitism is on the rise. It’s terrible that there are lies being spread about what the actual operations of the IDF are. It’s terrible that this march has to exist. But I am proud to have a voice.”

To read the complete December 2023 Dayton Jewish Observer, click here.

Demonstrators in support of Israel gather to denounce antisemitism and call for the release of Israeli hostages, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Nov. 14. Photo by Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images.
Previous post

Mangel family patriarch survived Auschwitz at age 10. At 90, he returned with three generations of descendants.

Next post

Bethel Public Schools investigates high school teacher's social media posts