PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — For a handful of Peoria Jews who attended massive show of support for Israel in Washington D.C. this week, it was a historic moment.
“It felt incredible and empowering,” said Susan Katz, the head of the Jewish Federation of Peoria on Wednesday afternoon as she was driving home with three others, including her husband, who made the whirlwind trip to the nation’s capital for the rally on the National Mall which drew about 300,000 people in support of Israel.
In all, five people from the Peoria area were at the rally.
“It gave me the opportunity to show my support and stand up and be counted and make a difference,” she said. “I can tell my children and my grandmother that I was there, and we were there. We were making history.”
The rally, conceived of and organized within the past week by the Jewish Federations of North America, was to show support for Israel, to highlight and combat antisemitism that is rising around the nation and to demand the release of more than 200 hostages held by Hamas.
“This showed the strength of the organized the Jewish community. In a week we can get close to 300,000. We are not going to cower in the face of antisemitism.”
Anti-Jewish incidents have been on the rise since the start of the fighting in Gaza which began after Hamas, the ruling party in the small narrow strip along the Mediterranean Sea, launched a coordinated attack against Israel, killing some 1,200 people and taking more than 220 people hostage as well as firing thousands of rockets.
Since then, Israeli forces have pounded the enclave, vowing to get rid of Hamas which has been labeled a terrorist organization by much of the world.
“This is my opportunity to stand up for my children,” said LaDona Fishkin of Peoria, noting the rise of antisemitism on college campuses throughout the United States.
Sheldon Katz, who is married to Susan Katz, said he came not just for the people locally who couldn’t make it but also for a deeply personal reason.
“In particular, I went for my father. because he can’t. and no one went on his behalf in the 1930s in the Nazi Germany,” he said.
His wife agreed, noting the rally brought together all different walks of life and non Jews as well to support for Israel. Speakers addressed the crowds over loudspeakers. Musical acts sang popular and cultural songs and all carried signs, banners or flags in support of the Jewish State.
“It’s important for us to show our support and to stand up in a public place, on the National Mall to let the (Biden) administration know that we appreciate their support (for Israel) and encourage them to continue,” she said. “We don’t know what will come next but we do know that our elected officials heard us loud and clear, and our country heard us loud and clear.
“We are standing up to antisemitism and we want the hostages to be returned.”