A Message from Rabbi Sam Levine: The War in Israel

October 10, 2023

The War in Israel

This weekend has been a blur to many of us, and continues to be, unfolding shock and horror before our very eyes. No words could possibly express our feelings about this national nightmare for our people. We are witnesses to a dark chapter. Disbelief, rage, terror, grief, confusion all compete for limited and distracted attention.

Over the last two days, as we mutedly celebrated the final holidays of the season, I spoke from the bimah, trying to find something – anything – to say. Even as we try to grapple with the ongoing enormity of this moment, to await news of loved ones, to close loops with those who are just degrees of separation from us, we must also hold on to our faith in an ordered world. In that world, such wickedness is punished, the truly evil suffer consequences, and there is some justice for the victims. In such a world, too, justice and reason guide us, not anger and blind vengeance – our natural, instinctual, animal impulses.

I noted that I had read a prayer written by a prominent Israeli establishment rabbi, that effectively called on God to wreak vengeance on our enemies (this was during the 2021 conflagration). Between that naïve hope on the one side, and an unending hope for the promise of peace on the other, I choose the latter. I will resist my impulse to “pave Gaza” and, once the dust settles, trust that the Gazans who are not savages will emerge as partners at some negotiating table, someday. Difficult to do in this fog, in the midst of an event where the perpetrators (some still engaged in their mission inside of Israel!) are bent on our brutal and merciless annihilation, but we must, lest we become like them.

But that is all for later. Right now, we are left to agonize over the bloodshed that has been and the bloodshed that is sure to follow. We must keep vigil, support Israel with our bodies and our wallets, and act in whatever way we can, bracing for what’s to come and focusing on the important questions:

How can we help? 

  1. You can offer to host visiting Israelis that are stuck here due to airport closures. Here’s a link.
  2. You can donate money to various organizations. Here are a few good options:

Magen David Adom

Lev Echad/One Heart

UJA Federation NY Israel Emergency Fund

There are many others, too.

What else can we do?

Show your support! There are two gatherings that I want to bring to your attention. Come and show solidarity, especially in the face of the pro-Palestine demonstrations in Manhattan yesterday, which Governor Hochul appropriately described as “abhorrent and morally repugnant.”

There will be a prayer service and candlelight vigil for Israel tonight sponsored by the Streiker Center at Temple Emanu-el. See below for more information.

UJA Federation is sponsoring a mass rally tomorrow in Midtown East (near the UN – see flyer below) at 5pm. Please make every effort to attend this rally so we can show the world our steadfast support.

As a community, we will stay in touch, remain informed, and process together this national calamity.

With prayers for peace, and support to all in our circles and communities affected by this terrible war.

Rabbi Sam Levine





Israelis — soldiers, civilians and communities — came under attack from multiple fronts by Hamas during Shabbat and Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah.

At Temple Emanu-El, our love of Israel is steadfast. We are fortunate to have many members of our community with family and close friends in Israel.

Please join us for a brief prayer service and candlelight vigil tomorrow at 5:30 PM on the steps of the Fifth Avenue Sanctuary.

This will be an opportunity to share our collective concern for Israel and those injured, taken hostage, on the fighting lines.

We will spend a moment in silence as we honor the hundreds of Israeli who have been killed in the last 24+ hours and pray for the injured and for the safe return of those who have been taken captive.

We will also demonstrate the unity of the American Jewish community, and that we stand with Israel in solidarity.

We pray for peace. We pray for the souls of the victims. And we pray for the safe return of the hostages.

No RSVP needed.

Livestreamed on Experience Emanu-ElYouTube and Facebook