Jewish Community Comes Together for Hostages on 100th Day of Captivity

Run for Their Lives participants
Participants in the Run for Their Lives in Pikesville (Vered Mei-Tal)

Nearly 200 individuals and families from different congregations gathered outside of Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Pikesville to mark the 100th day hostages in Israel have been held captive by Hamas.

The Run for Their Lives event, held on Sunday, Jan. 14, was an opportunity for community members to stand in solidarity with and issue a call for the release of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas during the Oct. 7 massacre in the south of Israel. It was part of a global call for action on behalf of the hostages, their families and for Israel.

After first gathering at Chizuk Amuno on Sunday morning, attendees participated in a run or walk in support of the hostages.

As stated on the Run for Their Lives website, the movement was started by a group of Israelis in the Bay Area in California, in collaboration with the Hostage and Missing Families Forum, with events led by local communities independently.

Holding a bullhorn and standing on a concrete slab, Julie August, one of the local event organizers, welcomed the large crowd in the parking lot of Chizuk Amuno.

“We normally would say ‘shavua tov’ today, and I hope that it will be, but I am feeling more like shavua neesbal, a tolerable week,” August, a member of Pikesville Jewish Congregation, said to the crowd. “It comes from the root “sevel,” to suffer or tolerate. Sometimes that is the best we can muster these days. Thank you for coming out on this cold day to show solidarity with our hostages. Today marks the 100th day that 137 of them have been held in captivity.”

Shani Dinovitz, who participated in the event with her two children, shared a video by Rachel Goldberg-Polin, mother of hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, encouraging people to participate in Run for Their Lives.

The Run for Their Lives event, Dinovitz said, “is a global initiative to raise awareness regarding the hostages. Rachel’s impassioned words — along with footage of her son, Hersh, being dragged off by terrorists with gaping flesh where his arm should be, and the horror of knowing so many hostages are being raped, beaten, starved and tortured in underground cages in Gaza — is what triggered local moms to organize a run at Chizuk Amuno this Sunday.”

When asked why it was important to be present at Run for Their Lives, Dinovitz’s 11-year-old daughter, Alisa, said, “It’s important to support the hostages and raise awareness that they are still being treated this way.”

Shani Dinovitz with her daughter Alisa
Shani Dinovitz with her daughter Alisa (Haydee M. Rodriguez)

Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi of Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation was at the event with her family.

“I felt that as a Jew, as an Israeli, as a rabbi, this is the very, very least that we can do to try to support our brothers and sisters, and of course, the families of the hostages, so that, God willing, those who are hostages will one day know that the entire Jewish people stand together,” Sabath said.

Another participant, Sheffi Sachs, walked with her dog, Hamish. Sachs shared that she hopes her presence and participation will convey to the hostages and their families that the world cares.

“Everybody deserves to be home,” Sachs said, adding that she hopes the hostages know “that we care, that we are not ambivalent, that they are not just statistics. Each person matters.”

Jay Bernstein, an attorney who lives in Baltimore City and belongs to Ner Tamid Congregation, participated with his wife, Dina. Bernstein was the lead organizer for the Rally for Israel held at Penn Station in October of 2023.

“We need to keep in the forefront of our consciousness, within the Jewish community and outside the Jewish community, the fact that there are still over 100 hostages still being held by a terrorist organization, and we demand their freedom,” Bernstein said. “We cannot forget that. It has been 100 days, and we demand that they be brought back to their families.”

For attendees Harry and Adriane Kozlovsky, who will be moving to Israel in February, the Run for Their Lives event was just one action they were able to make to support the hostages and their families and to stand in solidarity with the people of Israel. The Kozlovskys are Baltimore City residents and members of Ner Tamid.

Harry Kozlovsky, a child of Holocaust survivors, said that Oct. 7 and rising antisemitism in the U.S. are a call for Jews to “go home” to Israel.

“We are here today for the same reason we are making aliyah, why we are moving to Israel,” he said. “What is going on in this country is horrific. My parents were Holocaust survivors, and I am glad they are not here today to witness what is going on in this country. On the other hand, we need Holocaust survivors to give a firsthand experience of what happened so that they can educate the young people here who never experienced Israel and all the tragedies and the hatred that Jewish people have encountered.”

Orly Shalem, a member of a Chabad house in Pikesville, said she fears that not all the hostages are still alive.

“It was important for me to be here standing for Israel, for our beliefs,” she said. “I want to bring our hostages home. We do not know what is going on with our hostages, back in Gaza, or wherever they are. I am standing here for my Israel family in the south, and for my son, who is in the reserves now. I am here with the Baltimore community.”

Marty Taylor is a member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation and chair of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces’ Baltimore chapter. He participated in the Run for Their Lives with his 17-year-old son, Guy Taylor.

“I know my walking a mile in Pikesville won’t bring the hostages home or keep the soldiers safe,” Marty Taylor said, “but if my being [here], in solidarity with members of my community, and in support of our family in Israel, helps one person wake up to the atrocities committed on Oct. 7 — if it inspires one person to call their congressman or write an email to the White House or post on social media for their cohort to see that Israel matters to them, that the hostages matter to them, that Jewish lives matter — I’m all in.”

In Israel, families of the hostages held a 24-hour vigil — from Saturday, Jan. 13, to Sunday, Jan. 14, — in Tel Aviv, calling for the Israeli government to bring the hostages home, according to a report by the Associated Press.

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