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Crown Heights prayer rally for Israel draws 20,000, stresses joy amid anguish

“We are not here to analyze why. It’s not our mission. It’s not our task. It’s not our job,” said Rabbi Yosef Yeshaya Braun, a prominent Chabad rabbi. “Think good, and it will be good.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams delivers remarks at the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council’s (JCRC) “New York Stands with Israel” vigil and rally in Dag Hammerskjold Plaza, Oct. 10, 2023. Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams delivers remarks at the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council’s (JCRC) “New York Stands with Israel” vigil and rally in Dag Hammerskjold Plaza, Oct. 10, 2023. Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office.

An estimated 20,000 people attended a prayer rally on Monday night outside Chabad-Lubavitch world headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y.

New York City shut down two blocks of Eastern Parkway to accommodate the large gathering in support of Israel.

With local musician Chony Milecki as emcee, the event had a joyous feel despite the anguish of the moment—two days after the murderous invasion of Israel’s border by Hamas operatives who killed more than 1,200 Israelis, wounded thousands and took more than 100 men, women and children captive.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson—the seventh and last Lubavitcher rebbe, who died in 1994—used to stress the importance of protecting Jewish safety through happiness and increasing the performance of religious rites. Throughout the event, video clips of the Rebbe speaking were projected on a screen.

Speakers throughout the hour-long event called for attendees to pray, study Torah, and increase acts of charity and kindness. Several rabbis led attendees from the podium in chants of verses from Tehillim, or Psalms.

Rabbi Yosef Yeshaya Braun, an executive member of the Crown Heights Beit Din, led an upbeat recitation of Psalm 150 in a familiar Orthodox tune. The Chassidic singer Benny Friedman also came to perform for the crowd.

“We are not here to analyze why. It’s not our mission. It’s not our task. It’s not our job,” Braun said. He and other speakers recommended talking about what happened and focusing on how to respond, rather than posing existential theological questions. “Think good, and it will be good,” he advised, quoting famous words repeated often by the Rebbe.

‘They aren’t alone’

David Shapiro, 29 and a resident of Crown Heights, told JNS that he was inspired by the event. “It was a deeply profound experience,” he said.

Shuey Markel, also of Crown Heights, found it meaningful how the community came together on such short notice “to unequivocally stand together with our brothers and sisters in Israel,” the 24-year-old told JNS.

Chassidic singer Benny Friedman. Credit: Shlomoazar via Wikimedia Commons.

“It is this attribute of unconditional unity that really defines us as a nation and a people,” he said.

“It was amazing to see the show of support for the people of Israel and to let them know they aren’t alone,” Nechama Friedman, 21, told JNS.

“There was a deep sense of hope in the air that through increased prayer, study and good deeds, God will surely dispel our enemies and bring peace to Israel,” she said. 

Yoni Chanowitz, 36, was impressed by the large crowd and the content of the rally, noting that Friedman made time to attend and perform despite having had a very busy schedule during the recent holiday.

“He showed up for everyone to make sure that we had unity as a nation,” Chanowitz said. “If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.”

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