VIGIL REMARKS BY FEDERATION EXECUTIVE DIRECTIR DARA KAUFMAN:
Good afternoon, everyone. I am Dara Kaufman, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires. On behalf of the Federation and all our Jewish community partner organizations, thank you for joining us today.
We are grateful to Mayor Tyer and the City of Pittsfield, including the Pittsfield Police Department, for their assistance in making this event happen so quickly and for being here tonight standing in solidarity this with Israel and our Jewish community.
Our State Legislators could not be with us tonight due to scheduling conflicts, but Representatives Tricia Farley Bouvier, John Barrett and Smitty Pignatelli, as well as State Senator Paul Mark each asked us to Share their solidarity with Israel and all of you here this evening.
These past few days have been horrific for the People of Israel, their friends and families abroad, many right here in the Berkshires, and for all of us who love Israel.
It is out of that love that we gather here today.
We gather to mourn the 1200 innocent souls brutally murdered by Hamas terrorists.
We gather to pray for the safety and return of the 120 hostages including women, children, the elderly and vulnerable…. torn from their cribs, beds, and homes.
We gather to pray for the soldiers fighting for peace and security for their families and their home- Eretz Yisrael.
We gather to stand in solidarity with Israel and its people, who are reeling from this horrific and savage attack.
Israel seems very far away for most people. But for so many in our Jewish community, there is just one or two degrees of separation between us and the carnage and destruction that has happened and the danger and fear of what is unfolding.
For me and so many in our community, this is deeply personal. My husband’s entire family is in Israel. My in-laws, sisters, brothers-in-law, and their beautiful children, some of whom were laughing just days ago at my husband’s silly faces on video chat, are now racing to safe rooms and bomb shelters.
I am horrified. I am angry. I am scared. My heart is breaking.
Early Saturday morning, my husband was awoken by a call from a friend who lives in the Berkshires. Through tears, he asked if we could come to be with them. His brother-in-law had just texted them, “ I am badly injured, the baby is dead, send help.” Then, all communication stopped.
We raced over to be with them and hold the space during excruciating hours of the unknown. Then the news came. The attackers had shot through the safe room, wounding their brother-in-law and killing their baby niece. The attackers then set the house on fire, forcing my friend’s sister, her brother-in-law, and her two young nephews to flee, leaving behind their beloved baby girl.
Once outside, the terrorists executed the husband in front of his family, taking the wife and two boys hostage. Before the attackers could whisk them away, they encountered Israeli troops, and despite being shot multiple times during the rescue, my friend’s sister and her two nephews are alive. They have lost everything. They will recover from the gunshot and shrapnel wounds, but they will never fully recover from the sheer brutality and trauma they have experienced.
Neither will the thousands of people whose lives have been shattered because of this vicious and unprovoked assault on Israel.
Hearing this and hundreds of stories like them can leave us feeling powerless and lost. If you are feeling that way, I invite you to look around. Look into the faces and the eyes of those who have shown up tonight to stand alongside you. Feel their support, their energy and their love--- for each other, for our community, and for Israel.
There is, and there will always be, a diversity of opinion when it comes to Israel. But we are all here today, raising our voices in solidarity with Israel through prayer and song. This is the strength of our people. This is the power of our community.
Am Yisrael Chai…