Below is the speech I gave at a rally to mark 100 days in captivity:
The past hundred days have been excruciating. And as we’ve heard already today, this is intensely personal for all of us. It is inconceivable that this nightmare continues for the hostages and their families. But as Rabbi Hirschy said, it is inspiring and uplifting to see this gathering here, to see our Greater Boston community strong and our spirit resilient.
Thank you to the Zarchis for hosting. Thank you to Aylit for your leadership. Thank you to everyone who co-sponsored today. And thank you to everyone who is here for showing up today like you’ve been showing up every day for the past three months.
A few weeks after Oct. 7, I visited Israel with a solidarity mission and had the sacred privilege of sitting with families of hostages to bring them love and strength from our community.
As Jeremy shared, this week CJP sent the first of what will be three solidarity missions to Israel. Every mission participant has shared how agonizing it was to sit with the families of the hostages and to leave them. They were there to bear witness. They were there to bring love. And they were there to come home and share their stories, as we’re doing today.
Part of our pledge to their families is that we will continue to advocate and work for their loved ones’ release. And as they have shared, and as I saw with my own eyes, it’s one thing to hear the stories of these families, these individuals from afar, but it’s another to look them in the eye and to make the commitment not to forget them and not to rest until every one of them is freed. That is a sacred responsibility and one that we are making together here today.
One of the hostage’s stories—we’ve already heard a bit about him—is particularly close to my heart and to our community’s heart. He’s someone I find myself thinking about every day: Hersh Goldberg-Polin. His family, I believe, is with us today. He was my daughter Meital’s madrich, her counselor, during her 12th grade Gann Academy Israel experience just last spring.
In an hour or so, Meital’s going to speak about Hersh to the community she is with this year in Israel, and she allowed me to share a few of her words with you today. This is how she described Hersh: “Hersch was always happy, easy to talk to, the first person that everyone would turn to. He would send our group funny messages to keep us positive, and he literally bounced around when he walked. He called all of us ‘family.’”
Meital goes on to say: “When I told Hersh I’d be spending this year in Israel, he immediately offered to host me, and said the most important thing for us to do is ‘l’shmore al hakesher,’ to stay in touch and to preserve the connection with one another.”
You just heard how Hersh’s story has played out. Instead of visiting him this year, my daughter, like millions of us around the world, have instead been praying for his return and for the return of all of these hostages.
We will not stop rallying, sharing their stories, raising our voices, pressuring our leaders. They’ve asked us to do one thing today—and that’s wear this tape with “100” on it. So we remind ourselves and the world that this travesty cannot go on.
Wearing this tape, being here today, we are living out Hersh’s words to my daughter: “l’shmore al hakesher.” We will hold on to this connection and we will hold on to it every day for as long as it takes.
It’s probably not lost on many of us that this hundredth day is taking place during MLK weekend. Dr. King spoke about the importance of Israel’s security and about his great admiration for Israel as an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. He also reminded us that Moses’s call to “let my people go” continues to echo loudly today as we continue the fight for freedom and justice against tyranny and oppression here and around the world.
On Oct. 7, we saw the absolute worst horrors of which humanity is capable beyond what any of us can imagine. Today, 100 days later, Israelis, Americans, citizens from countries around the world, are still trapped in the living hell of captivity at the hands of brutal terrorists. We will not stop fighting for their liberation.
This is not just about Israel. This is not just a Jewish story. This is a human story. This is not about war. This is not about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Parents grieving the abduction of their innocent children, children grieving the abduction of their parents and grandparents and siblings. Every one of these people could be any of us, any of our family members. This is about all of us. It is our story.
So, today, we reaffirm the message: We will not let the world look away. And we say again, let my people go! Hachazero otam habita, achshav. Bring them home now.