On Sunday afternoon, a few thousand demonstrators gathered together in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol building to attend “No Fear: Rally in Solidarity with the Jewish People.”
The rally was meant as a demonstration against antisemitism, Jewish hatred and the denial of Jewish rights, said Caren Leven, the executive director of the Baltimore Zionist District, speaking prior to the event.
“Antisemitism is on the rise, and [the rally] is in response to all the acts of antisemitism that have been going on around the world and around our country,” Leven said. She noted several recent incidents that have occurred in the Baltimore area, including the desecration of Jewish gravestones near Dundalk and swastika graffiti found in Fells Point.
Dozens of Jewish organizations signed on as sponsors of the rally. BZD was the only one from Baltimore, Leven said. Some local organizations and synagogues also assisted in promoting the event, such as The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, Chizuk Amuno Congregation and Beth Tfiloh Congregation.
BZD organized two buses, with 55 passengers each, to take community members to the rally. In addition to the buses, other people from Baltimore drove or took the metro.
Speakers at the rally represented a variety of different backgrounds. They included Elisha Wiesel, son of the late Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel; Rabbi Shlomo Noginsky, a Chabad emissary at Shaloh House Jewish Day School of Boston, who was the victim of an early July stabbing attack; Megan McCain, daughter or the late Sen. John McCain; Rabbi Menachem Creditor of the UJA-Federation of New York; Rep. Alma Hernandez of the Arizona state legislature; Joshua Washington, executive director of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel and more.
“Today marks one week from Tisha B’Av, the darkest day on the Jewish calendar,” Wiesel said. “The sages teach that it was our own hatred for each other that caused the destruction of the First and Second Temples, and in the weeks leading up to this rally, it was this fear that dominated my field of vision, the fear that our community was divided beyond repair.
“But looking out at all of you today,” Wiesel continued, “it becomes clear that instead of dividing us, the enemies of the Jewish people, whether from the right or the left, at home or abroad, they have instead united us.”
Noginsky, speaking primarily in Hebrew, told the audience through a translator that he thanked God that his assailant succeeded only eight times out of repeated attempts to stab him.
“I was born in the Soviet Union,” Noginsky said. “I remember how, even as a young child, I experienced terrible antisemitism. Never, in my darkest years, did I imagine that I would feel the same way here in the United States, here in the land of freedom and endless possibility.”
Despite the waves of hatred Noginsky’s attacker had directed towards him, he continued, he also felt waves of love from Jews and non-Jews from across the world. He also drew strength from knowing that the parents of the children at his school plan to continue to ensure they receive a Jewish education.
“No, they’re not afraid,” Noginsky said. “They will not let terrorism beat thousands of years of Judaism.”
Washington identified himself as a non-Jewish ally standing unequivocally with the Jewish people, and had a straightforward message for the audience: Do not concede.
“Don’t concede a single inch of your humanity,” Washington said. “Don’t concede a single inch of your identity, of your heritage. Because the moment you do that, you’d already lost.”
Hernandez, who identified herself as a Jewish-Mexican Zionist and Democrat, vowed to never let anyone force her to choose one of her identities. “I will not allow a small minority to speak on behalf of our party, because that is not who we are,” she said.
Identifying herself as a Zionist, McCain explained that such a statement has become controversial in recent months, and she highlighted the importance of calling out both those on the far right and the far left for antisemitic statements.
Speaking of her father, McCain stated that one of the last conversations they had before his death concerned Israel.
“He said, ‘keep the flame,’” McCain said, “‘because there’s no guarantee it’s going to keep burning.’ I didn’t take it seriously, because it seemed so unfathomable that that would happen. He hasn’t been dead three years, and look where we are. He was right, this is scary. All I’m here to say to all of you is this: Be proud Zionists, be proud Jews, be proud supporters, be proud allies. We will not go quietly.”