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Our Town with William Kelly: Local synagogue filled with people in solidarity with Israel

Hundreds of people gathered at the Palm Beach Synagogue Tuesday in a display of support for Israel following last Saturday’s attacks by Hamas militants that killed hundreds of Israelis and injured thousands of others.

Rabbi Moshe Scheiner led the congregation, estimated at 400 or more people, in prayer for the Israeli soldiers heading into the war in Gaza, the Israeli people killed or injured in the attack, and those who have been taken hostage by the militants.

“I’m sorry to have to welcome you all here this evening under these tragic, horrific and devastating circumstances,” Scheiner said. “But it is heartwarming and comforting to see every one of you here today, coming together as a strong, united Jewish community in solidarity with Israel and with Jews around the world.”

Palm Beach police and Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies were visible during the event, attended by Jews and people of other faiths who were there in a show of support.

The gathering was organized in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County.

Michael Hoffman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation, said he, like so many others, is in shock and despair over the attack that unfolded over the weekend. But he said the Israeli people are strong.

“While so many in Israel are grieving and in significant pain, we are also witnessing how the people of Israel are coming together, yet again, to demonstrate astonishing resilience,” Hoffman said.

Palm Beach Mayor Danielle Moore and Town Council President Margaret Zeidman both expressed their support for the people of Israel.

Moore said the collective sadness at the Town Council meeting earlier Tuesday was palatable.

“The atrocities that are occurring are unfathomable,” she said. “We pray that things will get better. We pray for the hostages. Most of all, we pray for you and the rest of your congregation that you may have the strength and solidarity to stand fast and to beat down this evil that has come into your world.”

Zeidman, who is vice chairman of the Palm Beach Fellowship of Christians and Jews, said that organization stands side by side with the people of Israel.

“It’s the parents and the children who occupy my thoughts and prayers most,” Zeidman said. “I try to imagine the anguish of the parents whose children are in the hands of these terrorists. We grieve along with these parents who go to bed tonight and wake up tomorrow in the same nightmare.”

Also speaking were Palm Beach County Mayor Gregg Weiss, Dave Aronberg, who is the state attorney for Palm Beach County, and the Reverend Tony Drayton, pastor of the Saint James Missionary Baptist Church of Riviera Beach.
Aronberg said he’s been approached by people who are worried about being identified as Jews in the community. He said they shouldn’t feel intimidated or unsafe.

“We live in a safe community,” he said. “We have a very united group of elected officials, from Sheriff Bradshaw to Nicholas Caristo, police chief of Palm Beach. There is zero tolerance for hate in our community.”

Every seat on the synagogue had a card with a photograph and name of one of the 130 Israeli hostages on one side, and a prayer on the other. Scheiner asked each person attending to display the card at home and pray each day for the hostage’s release.

The service, which was also attended by Palm Beach Town Council members and former Mayor Gail Coniglio, concluded with a display of candlelight in remembrance of the Jewish people who were killed in Saturday’s attack.

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