Making History: Writing the Next Chapter for American Jewry

November 15, 2023
Jeremy Iskowitz

Buffalo Grove, Illinois, United States

Class of 2024

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Three days before Yom Kippur in 1943, more than 400 orthodox rabbis marched to the White House to plead with then-U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to rescue European Jews from the Nazis. On December 6th, 1987, 250,000 people from across the United States assembled at the National Mall for Freedom Sunday for Soviet Jews to put pressure on the Soviet Union to “let our people go” and to allow the Jewish people to practice religion freely. On Tuesday, November 14th, 2023, 38 days after the repulsive and despicable attacks by Hamas, the history books were rewritten. 

Going to bed after a long day of school on Monday, November 13th, 2023, I went to bed feeling grateful, hopeful, and excited about what I was going to take part in on Tuesday. But when I woke up after getting nearly four hours of sleep, I was energetic and motivated to take part in the largest pro-Israel rally in American history. At about 5 in the morning, I arrived at the Hilton Hotel at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, ready to board a bus over to the plane that would take us to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall International Airport. Seeing the diversity of ages and denominations of religion amongst those coming from the delegation in Chicago, I knew that I was going to be in store for a historic and memorable day I would never forget. 

Upon arriving at the security checkpoint for those wearing a blue wristband, I heard on the speaker amongst the loud crowd my friends and the people whom I’ve been making and building connections with over the past year speaking loud and proud on the stage for the tens of thousands already in attendance at the Pre Student Rally. To see BBYO voices and shirts up on the big screen after making it past security was so historic and special for me to witness, standing with people from all different organizations and walks of life. 

Speaking of walks of life, probably something that will stick with me for the rest of my life is the diversity amongst the crowd and how quickly travel and plans came together for this event. Amongst those near me in the crowd, I was able to interact with the littlest of kids, tons of teenagers, adults, parents, and grandparents. I saw strollers and walkers and everything in between. There were kids and teens in elementary school, middle school, high school, and college who all took the day away from school and class. There were hard workers who decided to take the day off at the last minute and those who were retired. There were Jews, Muslims, Christians, and those of all different faiths. It was not just one generation or group of people fighting against antisemitism and calling for the hostages to come home; it was all of us, joined together as one community. 

One of the things that made the march so special to many was the way the march was opened. Throughout the entire day, a lot of the people near me and at the march were meeting up with familiar faces and catching up with those around them. Conversations were being had the entire time by most until the playing of Hatikvah started aloud the speakers. Before the march, I hadn’t been in a space with as many people as I was, and instantly, conversations amongst people were halted, and the entire march was in unison, singing the national anthem of our beautiful homeland. Chills ran all throughout my body, and tears of joy were brought to my eyes, hearing 290,000+ people singing the same song at the same time. Not only were we spreading hope that one day we’d be able to live freely in America without having to worry about anti-semitism, but we were also spreading hope that one day soon, the hundreds of hostages would be returned home and be in the care of their parents, siblings and family members of the hostages who spoke so powerfully about their loved ones.

Looking back, being able to attend the March For Israel was yet another eye-opening experience for me. Since the start of the war, I’ve been reminded time and time again how important it is for us, the Jewish people, to stick together throughout the toughest of times. To those who weren’t in attendance for whatever reason, we need your help in making sure we continue to be loud and proud and not afraid to be Jewish. For anyone in attendance, as I captioned my Instagram post late last night, “We must not stay quiet…..” Showing up to the march yesterday from all corners of the United States will not be enough; keep flooding your social feeds and standing up for what you believe in. Just as the events on October 7th will be remembered in history, the 250,000 people tuning in around the world and the 290,000+ who spent their busy Tuesday at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., will be remembered in history.

Am Yisrael Chai 🇮🇱💙🤍

Jeremy Iskowitz is an Aleph from Ometz AZA #2553, Great Midwest Region #61 and is a big time Jersey Mike’s enthusiast.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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