Israel at War: What We Have Done and What We Can Do
Over the last three weeks, since we’ve returned from Sukkot break, I’ve heard one line from other students dozens of times:
“What can I do to help?”
The genuine interest in doing something, anything, to make a positive difference of some kind has been absolutely incredible to see. It’s important to ask this question, and I will offer some answers to it later in this editorial. Before that, however, we should look at and appreciate what we have already accomplished. Since Oct. 7, YU, along with the broader American Jewish community, has truly risen to the challenge of the moment in an impressive way.
- We held a massive assembly discussing what’s happening in Israel, attended by over 1,000 YU students and faculty members.
- The Commentator has published 30 articles by students about the situation in Israel in the last three weeks, and the Observer, YU’s other student paper, has published 23.
- 85 YU student organizations released an open letter condemning Hamas terrorism and the vile notion being propagated in other universities that said atrocities are Israel’s fault. Other students signed letters to Congress or specific congressional members, and students wrote letters that were handed to President Biden.
- Hundreds of YU students and many Roshei Yeshiva joined in a massive rally in midtown where Mayor Eric Adams, Governor Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James spoke. YU students have also attended, organized, and covered dozens of other rallies over the past three weeks.
- YU students organized a Global Day of Loving-Kindness, which received national attention and prompted thousands of people to respond to evil by doing good.
- YU students organized “Operation Torah Shield 3,” a relief mission that will take students to Israel in two weeks to volunteer, boost morale and support Israel directly as needed.
- President Ari Berman circulated a letter to university presidents expressing support for Israel, with help from students in getting news of the letter out there. It was signed by over 100 presidents of universities and printed in the Wall Street Journal.
- Several YU students worked with the organization Soldiers Save Lives to get much-needed supplies to IDF soldiers.
- The YU Political Action Club (YUPAC), is organizing a trip to Washington DC on Nov. 29 to lobby in support of Israel.
- YU hosted Congressman Adriano Espaillat, and hundreds of members of the YU community came out to support him for how vocally he has stood up for Israel.
- We have added Avinu Malkeinu and chapters of Tehillim [Psalms] to our davening in support of Israel, and held various Torah and learning programs across both campuses.
- We held an Azkara [remembrance ceremony] for those who were killed in Israel.
That list, though long, is not exhaustive. YU has hosted national news media on campus, and multiple YU students, as well as President Berman, have spoken out on TV, sharing their stories and perspectives with millions of viewers. The Counseling Center has held programming to support students, the administration has worked to increase security to ensure student safety and dozens of other events have happened across campus.
As Jews living in America, we may feel that we cannot accomplish as much as our Israeli counterparts to help Israel. As we raise the desperate cry of “What can I do to help?” it is worth pausing to appreciate just how much we have done and just how much we continue to do.
However, there is, of course, more that we can do. We can continue to daven for Israel, and continue the other efforts we are involved in. Here are a few more ways in which we can support Israel and other Jews from afar:
- Contact your elected representatives and express your appreciation for their support of Israel, or, if they’re less supportive, your displeasure with them. This has a real effect on the people who are elected to represent you, especially as other people are pushing them to not support Israel. A video circulated recently of Rav Schachter urging people to call their elected officials to ask or thank them for their support.
- Donate to (reliable) groups raising money for important causes, like Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). These groups are affecting real, tangible benefits for soldiers fighting for the Jewish people and for those who need help in Israel.
- Offer support to people on other campuses. While YU students are somewhat sheltered from the antisemitism and hatred that is prevalent on other campuses, there are students there who need help and support, people to join them for protests or just a friendly ear to be there for them.
- Speak to other students about plans they are working on and how you can get involved. There are so many students planning so many things. Reach out. Find them. Help them. If you want help doing that, please contact me.
- Speak to your non-Jewish friends or neighbors about the importance of supporting the Jewish people at this time. It is more important than at any other time in recent memory that all those who stand with us do so vocally. As thousands march against us, we must remember that we have friends.
- Support a friend or family member who is having a more difficult time than you. We all know people who are having a harder time, who have lost loved ones or are struggling daily due to this war. We can each play our part by supporting them.
While this war is larger than any of us, and we cannot turn the tide ourselves, we can have a real and palpable effect. We in YU have accomplished so much over the last three weeks. We will continue to accomplish more. We will neither falter nor fail.
Am Yisrael Chai.
The author can be reached at email@example.com with any feedback, questions or inquiries.