Chicago-area residents came together to show solidarity for Israel at a rally at the Reform North Shore Congregation Israel in the heavily Jewish suburb of Glencoe on Tuesday.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), who are both Jewish, delivered speeches at the event, which was organized by the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago.
“This morning, we saw the true meaning of a connected, united community,” Lonnie Nasatir, the president of JUF, told JNS.
Nasatir, who also spoke at the event, told JNS that the audience numbered more than 2,000, “representing all denominations, from the city and suburbs, elderly, school kids and everyone in between.”
“We share this moment in grief and in strength, showing the world that Chicago’s Jewish community stands firm, proud and resolute in support of our beloved Israel,” he added. “Today, tomorrow, always.”
“The pro-Israel, pro-peace communities came together in unequivocal support for Israel and against terrorism,” Yinam Cohen, consul general of Israel to the Midwest, told JNS. “Together, we will defeat these barbaric savages.”
‘Mask has been removed’
“There are many peace-loving Palestinians, and we must honor them,” Pritzker told the crowd. “But Hamas is a terrorist organization—an army of murderers backed by Iran. Their mask has been removed. Executing innocent children and the elderly—well, there’s a special kind of hell for that.”
The United States and Illinois stand “unequivocally” with Israel in “ending the ongoing Hamas attacks,” the governor added.
Speakers at the event paid tribute to mother and daughter Judith and Natalie Raanan of Evanston, Ill.—both of whom are missing and feared to be held captive in Gaza—and to Hersh Goldberg Polin, son of Chicago natives Jonathan Polin and Rachel Goldberg. The 23-year-old reportedly had an arm blown off by a grenade prior to being taken hostage.
“I’m a mother. To hear about those children being slaughtered and taken from their mothers’ arms, I can’t fathom the experiences that they’re going through right now, and my heart just breaks,” Laura Fine, an Illinois state senator who attended the rally, told JNS.
The community and the state must unite “and stand up for Israel and against terrorism,” Fine said.
‘Nowhere else I’d rather be’
Schneider, the Jewish congressman, said that Oct. 7 is “9/11 for Israel” but “proportionally on a far greater scale.” (The official death toll of at least 1,200 Israelis corresponds proportionally to more than 41,000 Americans.)
He added that he hopes that Oct. 7 will come to represent the beginning of the end for Hamas.
Schneider told JNS that it was important for him to attend to show solidarity with the community and Jewish constituents. “Israel is hurting and in need, which is why you see the Jewish community gathering here,” he said. “I am part of this Jewish community, and there is nowhere else I’d rather be.”
Schneider dismissed criticism that the White House bears some responsibility for having released funds to Iran, which reportedly was involved in planning the attacks.
“Let’s be clear; Hamas did not need an excuse to attack Israel,” said the congressman. “This operation has been planned for months, if not years.”
Although Tehran has financed Hamas and helped plan attacks for a long time, “not one penny” of the $6 billion that was recently freed up for the Islamic Republic has yet to be released to Iran, Schneider said.
“None of that money is U.S. money. It is Iranian money from selling Iranian fuel from years ago,” he said. If Iran is proven to have been involved in Hamas’s attacks on Oct. 7, “it should never get one penny of that money sitting in Qatar,” he added.
‘Make sure Israel has everything she needs’
Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, an Illinois state representative who was on hand, told JNS that she is “heartbroken” by Hamas’s slaughter of innocent civilians.
“We’re going to be meeting as a Jewish caucus in the days and weeks ahead to make sure Israel has everything she needs,” Gong-Gershowitz said.
Jim Scudder Jr., senior pastor of Quentin Road Baptist Church in Lake Zurich, Ill., attended the rally to express his “love and support for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.” (He told JNS his church has more than 1,000 members who attend regularly.)
“We as Americans, especially those of us who are Christians, need to stand with Israel,” he said.