update deskJewish & Israeli Holidays

Chicago alderman lights ceremonial torch at Yom Ha’atzmaut ceremony in Jerusalem

“We must all do our part and continue to speak up until our voices are heard,” Debra Silverstein told JNS.

Debra Silverstein
Debra Silverstein. Source: Screenshot.

A Chicago leader who has pushed back against rising antisemitism and intensifying anti-Israel sentiment received an honor on Monday from the Israeli government.

Alderman Debra Silverstein lit a ceremonial torch in Jerusalem for Diaspora Jews on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.

The Consulate General of Israel in the Midwest stated that “Israel invited Silverstein for this honor because of her advocacy for the Jewish community in Chicago and her continued campaign against antisemitism.

Because of her leadership, the consulate wrote, the Chicago City Council condemned Hamas’s terror attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7 that resulted in the murder of 1,200 people and the kidnapping of more than 250 men, women and children into the Gaza Strip, about half of whom remain in captivity.

“It was truly humbling to be selected to light a torch,” Silverstein told JNS, noting that others honored included “a paramedic who was shot while saving innocent lives on the front lines and a nurse who helps amputees who lost limbs to terror regain their lives.”

Silverstein said she met “Israel’s oldest soldier, who has been defending his nation for more than 90 years. I spoke with people who work in air and missile defense, and need to wear masks to hide and protect their identity.”

The wives of soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces also joined Silverstein, who noted that they “haven’t seen their husbands in months” and that she felt “deeply honored to stand in their presence.”

Pointing to the uptick in antisemitism in America and related fears in the Jewish community, Silverstein said that what struck her most during her visit was “how we’re privileged to have choices and options that Jews in Israel don’t have.”

Silverstein told JNS that in America, Jews “still have a choice whether to speak out. We choose to speak for our Israeli brothers and sisters. But those in Israel have no choice. [They] have nowhere to go and no one else to speak up for them, so they rely on us. We must all do our part and continue to speak up until our voices are heard.”

Debra Silverstein
Chicago alderman Debra Silverstein lit a ceremonial torch for Diaspora Jews at a ceremony in Jerusalem for Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, on May 13, 2024. Source: Screenshot/Courtesy.
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