Avi Goldberg is ARIEL Jewish Center’s only member who is currently active in the Israel Defense Forces. Right now, she is engaged in Israel’s war against Hamas, even though she was supposed to come home and visit her parents.
Goldberg was the subject of one of the many recorded messages played at the center’s Israel Support Rally on Thursday, Oct. 12, and her family spoke about her bravery and dedication to the cause.
Goldberg “has never looked back, knowing she made the right decision. Seeing her smile like she’s never smiled before warmed our hearts,” said Tatyana Goldberg, Avi Goldberg’s mother, of her daughter’s aliyah. “To say we’re proud is an understatement. To say we raised a strong girl is evident. As parents, we’re petrified. … I ask that every house lights a Shabbat candle and says a little prayer for her.”
Members of the ARIEL Center, which serves Russian-speaking members of Baltimore’s Jewish community, gathered at its Pikesville campus to show their support for Israel, raise community awareness of current events happening there and promote their fundraising efforts for the IDF.
The rally saw a speech from ARIEL Center’s Rabbi Velvel Belinsky, who spoke about Hamas’ recent attack on Israel and what the Torah says Jewish people should do in these times of strife. Parents of IDF soldiers also spoke about their experiences seeing their children go off to war, and several soldiers in pre-recorded videos discussed the situation in Israel and what American Jews can do to support them.
“This was the most horrific event in the history of modern Israel, and the most disturbing news anyone here could have possibly imagined waking up to,” Belinsky said in his speech at the event. “The world has become a much darker place.”
ARIEL Center has started ARIEL on the Frontlines, a fundraising campaign that aims to supply resources to soldiers. Donors can purchase necessities such as undergarments, personal hygiene products and tactical gear for individual soldiers, or they can cover the cost of things like pizza, first aid supplies and tefillin to share for entire IDF units. Once an item is sponsored through a donation, it is immediately delivered to the frontlines in Israel.
Both the event and the fundraiser were quickly organized in a matter of days, Belinsky said. The rally was planned over the course of Monday through Wednesday, and the IDF fundraiser was up and running by Tuesday.
In addition to Avi Goldberg’s message, the attending crowd also watched a video message from Yossi Bluming, the son of Rabbi Mendel Bluming of Chabad of Potomac who is also serving in the IDF.
“Because they attacked us as a nation, we have to defend ourselves as a nation,” he said. “As a Jewish nation, we will stand together and win this together.”
On social media, some have compared Hamas’ invasion of Israel and the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. But as a Russian Jewish leader, Belinsky says they are two entirely different situations with little in common.
“The dispute [between Russia and Ukraine] can be resolved between themselves, whether that is financially, politically or militarily,” he said. “The dispute between Israel and Hamas cannot be solved as long as Hamas is still active.”
At the rally, Belinsky noted that the three things people can do to help Israel are Torah, tefillah and tzedakah — studying the Torah to see what it says about dealing with times like these, meeting with fellow members of the Jewish community to pray and supporting Israel and Israeli nonprofits through charitable donations and community service.
The rally ended with the attendees singing “Am Yisrael Chai” along with a video of IDF soldiers singing the song while on duty.
“As the Torah tells us, one little light can dispel darkness,” Belinsky said. “We wish we would have other opportunities and reasons to do good in this world. But if this is the opportunity presented to us, we have to heed this call.”