By Alexander Dworkowitz
The quiet neighborhood of Kew Gardens Hills is a world away from the daily violence in Israel.
But on Sunday, several leaders of the Jewish community of Queens gathered in Kew Gardens Hills to rally behind Israelis in what some described as an escalating war against all of Judaism.
While the stated purpose of the rally was to show solidarity with Jews who have lost their lives in Israel, many of the speakers took a political stance, telling the audience of hundreds that Jews needed to take steps to defend themselves.
“We have to fight back with the support of the military right of the Jews,” said Dr. Bernard Lander, dean and founder of Touro College in Manhattan.
Speaking in front of the Kew Gardens Hills public library at the intersection of Vleigh Place and Main Street, Lander said Jews must heed warning signs of their persecution. He referred to Adolf Hitler’s 1939 publication of “Mein Kampf,” which threatened Jews several years before the Holocaust began.
“This is a repetition of Jewish history,” said Lander.
The rally demonstrated that even as President George Bush is calling for restraint in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, many members of the Jewish community of Queens are sympathetic to the Israeli occupation.
Lander was not alone in his ardor.
“We should harbor no illusions that we are in the midst not only of a struggle but a war,” said Rabbi Michoel Rosensweig of the Rosh Yeshiva. Rosensweig, like the other speakers, is an Orthodox Jew.
Rosensweig said countries and organizations needed to be more vigilant of their support of Israel. He pointed out that The New York Times recently published figures showing that more Palestinians than Israelis have died during the last 18 months of violence in Israel and Palestinian-controlled territories.
“Even the reputable New York Times has subtly corrupted the truth of what has happened,” he said.
Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld of Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills said world opinion has turned against Israel.
“They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East,” said Schonfeld. “This is not a war between Palestinians and Israelis. This is a war against the Jewish people of the whole world.”
The passionate feelings were not limited to the speakers.
“The Americans have a double standard,” said Barbara Goldman, who attended with her husband, Marshall. “We can go into Afghanistan and bomb the Taliban, but we can’t go in and bomb Palestine.”
The Goldmans, who married in 1993 when they lived in Israel, said they hoped to retire there if the violence subsided.
Hillcrest residents Elie Miskin, his teenage son Michael, and Michael Miskin’s friend, Jonathan Stein, displayed a sign that said in Hebrew: “To throw out Arafat/To Fight Terror.” The sign referred to Yasir Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization who has been under fire recently from Israelis, who claim he supports terrorism.
Jeff Gottlieb, Councilman David Weprin’s (D-Hollis) chief administrative officer, helped organize the event.
A large part of the rally was dedicated to prayer, led by Cantor Chazzan Joseph Malovany of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan.
Malovany mournfully sung out a prayer for peace in Israel, his voice carrying down Main Street.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, president of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens and son of Fabian Schonfeld, said prayer was important in order to show support for Jews living in Israel.
“We are all in this together,” said Schonfeld. “We are with you in spirit and soul, even if we are not with you in body.”
Goldman also urged prayer.
“Only God can help us,” she said.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.