The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest mainstream Orthodox synagogue organization, organized a solidarity gathering for the unity of Jerusalem on Monday, January 8, 2001, which was held at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City. Co-sponsored by AMIT, Emunah, National Council of Young Israel, Poalei Agudath Israel, Rabbinical Council of America, and the Religious Zionists of America, the rally drew over 1,200 participants from the New York area on a day’s notice. The gathering was timed to support the mass rally in Jerusalem organized by Natan Sharansky and was synchronized to take place simultaneously. In addition to leaders of the Orthodox organizations, the participants were addressed by New York officials and other Jewish leaders attended the rally and participated in the program.
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, spiritual leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, delivered the keynote address and brought the crowd to a standing ovation with a stirring message, saying “We are here because Natan Sharansky, at this very moment, is marching with hundreds of thousands of Israelis around the walls of Jerusalem to demonstrate the centrality of the Old City of Jerusalem to the history and contemporary life of the Jewish people.”
Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) stated passionately, “It is time to stand up for that in which we believe. It is time to let the world know that we will not participate in our own destruction. It’s time to let the world know that Jerusalem will never again be divided.”
New York City Council Speaker Peter Vallone movingly described his visit to the Christian holy places in the Old City several years ago, saying how it was impossible for him, as a devout Christian, to have freedom of access to Christian shrines until Jerusalem was reunited under Israeli hands in 1967. In the letter, he called upon President Bill Clinton expressing the position of the New York City Council on keeping Jerusalem united, emphasizing that nothing should be ceded under the threat of violence. A resolution was recently passed by all of 51 members of the New York City Council that calls for an undivided Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty and states that the Temple Mount belongs to Jerusalem and the people of Israel. (Text of the resolution is attached).
The participants roundly applauded AMIT president Sandra Sokol, Emunah president Marcia Genuth and RZA president Rabbi Simcha Krauss who spoke of the ancient Jewish roots and historical claims of the Jewish people to Jerusalem.
Betty Ehrenberg, Director of International Affairs, OU, said, “We were greatly encouraged by constituents from all over the country who called us wanting to know how they could participate. Members from Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, and many other cities called up saying they would hold parallel events. This is only the first of rallies that will be held in support of an undivided Jerusalem.”
“We express our deepest appreciation to Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and to all the co-sponsoring organizations for all their assistance in helping put this rally together on a day’s notice. The world must realize that the Jewish historical and religious claim to Jerusalem and Har HaBayit, the Temple Mount, cannot be denigrated and that no one of any faith will have freedom of access to the holy shrines unless Jerusalem, Har HaBayit, and the holy places are under the sovereignty of Israel and only Israel. This was not a rally of support of any political position, it was in support of a thousands-year-old tenet of the Jewish people, that of an undivided Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty. We will continue to raise our voices until we are sure that we are heard.”