Violence in Israel troubles Queens’ Jewish residents

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As the violence escalates between the Israelis and the Palestinians and there seems to be no peace accord in site, concern for the state of Israel has become the hot button topic for the Queens’ Jewish population and Jews all over the globe.

Jews share a sense of community among themselves and the battle taking place in Israel has become a focal point for many Queens Jews.

Since the failure of an Israeli and Palestinian peace accord 17 months ago, the fighting between both sides has been getting worse day-by-day. Even though there have been several attempts at a cease-fire, both states have fallen into the cycle of attack and retaliate.

Rabbis bring up the problems in their sermons, congregations worry about what will happen next and it has become a regular topic of conversation at the dinner table.

“It is a burning issue,” said Rabbi Isidoro Aizenberg of the Conservative Synagogue of Jamaica. “It is felt in so many different ways. Members of the congregation have family living in Israel, children studying there or are visiting to show solidarity.”

What the members of the synagogue read in newspapers, hear on radio and watch on television, he said, has profoundly affected the community. Aizenberg said there is a strong sense of concern about how it will all end and many Jews feel a need to work on behalf of Israel.

Rabbi Jonathan Pearl of Temple Sholom in Floral Park said during his services he has spent a lot of time talking about the ongoing situation in Israel. Since the attack on the World Trade Center and the continued violence in Israel, he said the members of his congregation have wanted to spend more time with their fellow Jews.

“There is a sense in American Jews to stand behind Israel during this terrible onslaught,” Pearl said. “Many people have fear and a sense of desperation and are concerned what will happen.”

“I encourage Jews to go to Israel,” he said. “It is easy to support and love when things are going well, but like in marriage and friendship when things get tough, it becomes more difficult to give undying and unwavering support.”

He recently took his children to Israel for four days to show solidarity and commitment with Jews living in there. He said in the midst of all the violence, it is now the time to show a level of commitment, faith and attachment.

“Now that Americans have had a taste but not the daily barrage of violence, I hope they understand how important it is to discern the difference between right and wrong and good and evil,” Pearl said. “People have to be careful not to wash out or smooth over the situation.”

He pointed out that Israel is just a small state surrounded by a “sea of hatred” and America has to come down on the right side when it confronts evil.

“I pray for peace,” he said. “I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t. I support peace.”

Agreeing with his brethren, Rabbi Paul Hait, the interim rabbi at the JFK International Synagogue, which serves the airport’s passengers and staff, said since Sept. 11, even though there are fewer passengers, there is a greater percentage of people stopping in at the synagogue.

People come, he said, to meditate, gather and pray.

“The fate of the Jewish state is an area of concern of world Jewry,” Hait said. “We are all concerned about what is happening.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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