Keeping Israel in Our Hearts

We continue to hold what is happening in Israel and Gaza with heavy hearts and anguish, praying for a negotiated end to the war, the safe return of all hostages, no more loss of innocent lives, and for leadership with long-term vision that will bring about a just and enduring resolution to the conflict. In times like this, we will continue to come together as a community, to support one another, and to learn from friends and partners in Israel as well as from experts on the conflict.

Join us daily during morning minyan or on Shabbat where we say the prayer for hostages, prayer for those in Gaza, and for the State of Israel, and see related recordings and content below of all of our recent programming and events since October 7 at BJ.

Ongoing Action Opportunities

Run 2 Bring Them Home Now

Sundays 11 am Central Park and 90th Street

Organized by the Hostage and Missing Families Forum, this weekly gathering brings the Upper West Side community together to demand more action to release the hostages still held in Gaza. Each week there are one or two speakers, often including family members of those in captivity. People gather for 20 minutes and then run or walk the bridle path around the reservoir. Bring Israeli flags and/or signs.

Sing and Pray for the Hostages

Saturdays 5:30 PM Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue at 76th Street

A weekly song circle and havdalah to pray for the release of the hostages, led by Rabbi Joanna Samuels, CEO of the JCC and member of BJ.

Rally at UN Secretary-General Residence

Fridays 9:00 AM, 3 Sutton Place

Join the Hostages and Missing Families Forum every Friday at the official residence of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to demand release of the hostages held in Gaza.

Join the Families and Missing Families New York group on WhatsApp to receive information about events happening in the New York area:

Photos of the hostages in Gaza are ever-present in our Sanctuary’s balcony. (Photo credit: Sarah Merians Photography)

Recent Programs & Sharable Items

Since October 7, BJ has focused much of its programming and teachings around this tragedy and ensuing war. Catch up on all of our past programs, and keep an eye on your email and this page for more upcoming learning opportunities.

  • Rabbi Becca Weintraub shared some powerful words of Torah on May 4, reflecting on the college campus protest movement—in particular as it related to the parashah, Aharei Mot—and exploring the idea of belonging and the power of words. See a clip or watch the full D’var Torah.
  • In a D’var Torah on April 20, Rabbi Roly Matalon discussed the generational divide on Israel and some of the reasoning behind it. He emphasized the importance of intergenerational dialogue, using the Passover story as a framework for understanding and reconciling differing perspectives on contemporary issues. Watch →
  • On the first day of Pesah, as is our communal tradition, members of the community shared some perspectives on the holiday and the first night’s seder, in particular given the current reality. Watch →
  • On the second day of Pesah, Rabbis Roly Matalon and Rebecca Weintraub discussed two simultaneous counts we are embarking one, one is in one sense a berakhah (blessing)—counting the Omer—and one is the opposite, counting the days since October 7, which seems to have no end. See what they had to say about both. Watch →
  • In a D’var Torah on April 13, Rabbi Felicia Sol explains the reasoning behind why we say the Prayer for the State of Israel, the prayer for the hostages, and also how the prayer she and Rabbi Roly Matalon wrote for the people of Gaza came to be. Watch the full teaching or a short clip shared on Instagram or Facebook. (Hint: you don’t need a login to see the Instagram clip.)
  • During Shabbat morning services on March 23, Rabbis Roly Matalon and Felicia Sol had an open conversation on the recent rise in antisemitism given the war in Gaza, its historical roots, and recent manifestations in America, debating the complexities of Jewish identity and political alliances, while stressing the importance of a nuanced understanding to move all of us forward. Watch 
  • In his D’var Torah on February 17, Rabbi Roly Matalon discussed his recent trip with Rabbi Felicia Sol and nearly 50 BJ members to Israel. Rabbi Felicia Sol also reflected on the trip in her D’var Torah on February 24.
  • On February 12, we hosted a powerful conversation with May Pundak and Dr. Rula Hardal, the inspirational Israeli and Palestinian co-executive directors of the rapidly growing “A Land for All” peace movement. At this time of grief, anger, pain, and despair, May and Rula shared their vision and discussed the compelling and practical solutions they offer for the thorniest sticking points in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Check out our blog post recapping the event here. (This event was co-sponsored by B’nai Jeshurun, New Israel Fund, and American Friends of A Land for All.)
  • On February 3 we hosted an event, “Shared Grief, Shared Hope: Bereaved Palestinians and Israelis for Peace,” featuring Robi Damelin and Mohamed Abu Jafar of The Parents Circle—Families Forum. The event brought together bereaved Israelis and Palestinians in a poignant dialogue about loss, hope, and the unwavering belief in peace as the only solution. Check out our blog post featuring a few clips from Robi, Mohamed, and Rabbi Felicia Sol.
  • Rabbi Felicia Sol shared some reflections from her recent Israel trip in a kavannah on Friday, February 2. Watch the full teaching or a short clip on YouTube or share it on Instagram.
  • In late-January and early February, Rabbis Roly Matalon and Felicia Sol led a delegation of 48 BJ members on a trip to Israel to visit our partners and shared society organizations, witness the devastation of October 7, and meet with the survivors and family members of hostages. Our rabbis recorded and shared reflections on Facebook and some of the participants shared their reflections.
  • In mid-January, Rabbi Rebecca Weintraub traveled to Israel with several New York area rabbis and Jewish professionals, supported by the UJA Federation of New York and The Jewish Agency. The cohort met with leaders, activists, and families affected by the October 7 terrorist attacks and visited some of those sites. She reflected on her trip in an in-depth conversation.
  • As the prolonged conflict in Israel and Gaza continues, Rabbi Felicia Sol shared some important reminders during her D’var Torah on Shabbat, January 6. Watch and share a short clip from her teaching on Instagram or on Facebook, or see the full D’var Torah here on YouTube.
  • On December 16, we were honored to host a delegation of family members of Israeli hostages, including Eyal Eshel (father of Roni Eshel z”l), Natalie Ben Ami (daughter of Ohad Ben Ami), and Ofir Sharabi (daughter of Yossi Sharabi), to hear their stories and offer our solidarity and support at this unbearable time. They spoke after the Torah service and you can see their remarks here.
  • On December 5, Rabbis Roly Matalon and Felicia Sol hosted a conversation with Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute, about the critical questions of this moment, the obligations of Jewish Peoplehood, and the moral considerations related to fighting a just war. Watch it here.
  • Leading up to Thanksgiving weekend, Rabbi Roly Matalon shared in his Toward Shabbat that week shared three articles to inspire and nurture a vision of a peaceful future.
  • On November 15, the Family Life & Learning department co-hosted with other Manhattan congregations a conversation with Dr. Rachel Fish for teens and parents on responding to antisemitism. Watch it here.
  • On November 14, Rabbi Felicia Sol traveled with a delegation of BJ members to the March for Israel rally in Washington, D.C. See some images here from her experience.
  • On November 8, we hosted a conversation in partnership with New Israel Fund, with Sally Abed and Alon-Lee Green—co-directors of Standing Together (Omdim Beyachad-Naqif Ma’an). Standing Together is predicated upon the centrality of Arab-Jewish partnership, and the organization is an essential voice during this difficult moment in Israeli history. Sally and Alon-Lee will share personal stories about the work they have done and the support system they have created through their thousands of members to maintain a group of dedicated Jews and Arabs who are devoted to creating a society capable of achieving peace, equality, and social justice for all. Watch the full event or read our blog post of six key takeaways from this event.
  • On November 4, we co-sponsored a Havdalah service and a benefit concert in support of the families of those kidnapped on October 7, which featured our Artist in Residence, Shira Averbuch.
  • On November 3, Governor Kathy Hochul gave powerful remarks at Kabbalat Shabbat services. We were honored to have Gov. Hochul address our community in which she expressed her continued support of the Jewish community and for doing all she can to help press for the release of the hostages. Watch her full remarks here or share this short clip on Instagram or on Facebook.
  • On October 27, we unveiled the empty Shabbat table installation on the Upper West Side. This powerful symbol served as a poignant reminder of more than 200 captives held by Hamas (at the time), who are absent from their families’ tables once again. See images of the installation here or here. Rabbi Becca Weintraub also reflected on her visit to the installation in her Toward Shabbat, “The Two Tables.” Rabbi Roly Matalon also reflected on the installation in his D’var Torah that Shabbat.
  • On October 18, we hosted a special briefing featuring Dr. Michael Koplow, Israel Policy Forum’s chief policy officer. Koplow offered his expert analysis of the current moment and an informed assessment of what lies ahead for Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, democratic state. Watch it here.
  • On October 9, the Upper West Side Jewish Community gathered together in prayer and solidarity following the tragic events. Rabbi Felicia Sol shared a kavannah to close out the evening, before concluding with the singing of Hatikvah. Watch the recording of the vigil or read Felicia’s kavannah here.
  • On October 7, BJ held Erev Simhat Torah services without dancing, reciting a different psalm during each hakafah. You can view the powerful service here or a clip of singing Im Eshkaheh here.

Prayer for Those in Gaza

אל אלהי הרוחות לכל בשר

O God, Spirit of all Humanity

Help us to acknowledge the devastation, trauma, and destruction in Gaza,
To express the heartbreak for the tens of thousands of Palestinians that have died—among them so many women and children.
For the lack of food, shelter and medical care.
For the destruction of peoples’ homes. For the millions of refugees the war created. For the hopelessness and despair.
We pray for a cessation of the violence, the safe return of the hostages and we pray for our ability to hold in our hearts at the same time the suffering and pain of Israelis and Palestinians.
We pray for the future of both peoples on this land, for the acknowledgement of both peoples right to self determination and the freedom to live in justice and dignity.
We pray that in all our trauma, our sorrow, our despair, that we don’t harden our hearts, or refuse to see what is happening before our eyes. We pray we preserve our humanity.
We pray that in the horror of this moment, there will be an awakening; and a realization that the only path forward is one of coexistence.

וְיָשְׁבוּ אִישׁ תַּחַת גַּפְנוֹ וְתַחַת תְּאֵנָתוֹ וְאֵין מַחֲרִיד

So that every person might sit under their vine and fig tree and no one shall be afraid. — Micah 4:4

ה׳ עֹז לְעַמּוֹ יִתֵּן ה׳  יְבָרֵךְ אֶת־עַמּיו בַשָּׁלוֹם׃

May God grant strength to God’s people; May God bless of all of God’s people with peace. — Psalm 29:11

— By Rabbis Felicia Sol and Roly Matalon, B’nai Jeshurun, NYC

Prayer for Those Being Held in Captivity

May the Holy One who blessed our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah; bless, protect and guard our missing brothers and sisters who are in distress and captivity. May the Holy Compassionate One, bring them out of darkness and the shadow of death; may God break their bonds, deliver them from their distress, and bring them swiftly back to their families’ embrace. May there be fulfilled in them the verse: “Those redeemed by God will return; they will enter Zion with singing, and everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
And let us say: Amen.

מִי שֶׁבֵּרַךְ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב, וְאִמּוֹתֵינוּ שָׂרָה רִבְקָה רָחֵל וְלֵאָה, הוּא יְבָרֵךְ וְיִשְׁמֹר וְיִנְצֹר אֶת כָּל אַחֵינוּ וְאֲחְיוֹתֵינוּ הַנֶעְדָרִים הַנְּתוּנִים בְּצָרָה וּבְשִׁבְיָה. הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא יִמָּלֵא רַחֲמִים עֲלֵיהֶם, וְיוֹצִיאֵם מֵחֹשֶׁךְ וְצַלְמָוֶת, וּמוֹסְרוֹתֵיהֶם יְנַתֵּק, וּמִמְּצוּקוֹתֵיהֶם יוֹשִׁיעֵם, וִישִׁיבֵם מְהֵרָה לְחֵיק מִשְׁפְּחוֹתֵיהֶם. וִיקֻיַּם בָּהֶם מִקְרָא שֶׁכָּתוּב: וּפְדוּיֵי ה׳ יְשֻׁבוּן, וּבָאוּ צִיּוֹן בְּרִנָּה, וְשִׂמְחַת עוֹלָם עַל־רֹאשָׁם, שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה יַשִׂיגוּ, וְנָסוּ יָגוֹן וַאֲנָחָה: וְנֹאמַר אָמֵן

Initiatives to Support Israelis

View our evolving  list of ways to support our Israeli brothers and sisters through tzedakah, donations, and taking action.

Watch some of our recent Israel programming and our rabbis’ teachings

Shared Grief, Shared Hope: Bereaved Palestinians and Israelis for Peace

B'nai Jeshurun

February 4, 2024 3:39 AM

Watch or share these posts

As the prolonged conflict in Israel and Gaza continues, some important reminders from Rabbi Felicia Sol's teaching last Shabbat.



In this week’s Toward Shabbat, BJ Rabbinical Fellow Sammy Kanter reminds us that our community can help us feel supported, even in unpredictable ways. Read his full reflection by visiting our link in bio.



We're honored to have @govkathyhochul address our community this past Shabbat. We're grateful for her continued support of the Jewish community and for doing all she can to help press for the release of the hostages. #bringthemhomenow



In this week's Toward Shabbat, BJ Rabbinic Fellow Alissa Platcow shares the importance of prayer in the midst of anxiety about loved ones in Israel. Read her full reflection by visiting our link in bio.



Another Shabbat and there are still more than 200 hostages. This Shabbat, we continue to pray for their safe and immediate release. #bringthemhomenow



In the midst of this deepening crisis, Rabbi Roly Matalon in his D'var Torah urges us to hold two truths simultaneously: the imperative for Israel to defend itself against a ruthless enemy and safely retrieve the hostages, and the moral obligation to acknowledge and alleviate the suffering of innocent Palestinians. Watch the full D'var Torah at the link in bio. #lekhlekha #lechlecha #dvartorah



📍Tomorrow, 81st Street 12-5 PM

There will be an empty Shabbat table installation on the Upper West Side to call attention to the 220 captives who are being held hostage by Hamas, and who will not be with their families for yet another Shabbat. It is modeled after the installation that was set up outside of the Tel Aviv Museum and has since been replicated internationally including New York City Times Square, the Jewish Quarter of Rome, Sydney’s Bondi Beach, and Los Angeles.

The installation will be on the south side of West 81st Street between Columbus Avenue and Central Park.

Sponsored by B’nai Jeshurun, Ansche Chesed, the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, UJA Federation of New York, and Council Member Gale Brewer.



Banner photo by Sarah Merians Photography.