Last Tuesday, I had the honor to be in conversation with Rachel Goldberg-Polin, the mother of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who has been held hostage by Hamas since he was kidnapped on October 7. Like many of the hostages, there had been no signs of life from Hersh in over 200 days, and at the time of our webinar with Rachel we had no knowledge of his wellbeing, or whether he was alive or not. That all changed in a flash on Wednesday morning when, Hamas sent out a propaganda video with Hersh Goldberg-Polin speaking, sending an incendiary message against Prime Minister Netanyahu. In the words of Rebecca Bardash, a cousin of the Goldberg-Polins:

And there was Hersh. Thin. Pale. Hair shorn close to the head. His left arm cut off at the elbow. His face inscrutable.


This short video shocked a nation and gave hope to Hersh’s family and his wide circle of loved ones advocating and praying for his, and all of the hostages, release. If nothing else, this video gave us hope, strength, and resolve to continue the fight and do all we can do to gain the release of the hostages.

While Israel is shaken by this video, and thinking about the ensuing plans to invade Rafah, here in North America much of our focus has been on University campuses, where anti-Israel (and in some cases, antisemitic) protests have reached new levels of vitriol as more and more students and non-students have boarded the bandwagon of the cause de jure in protesting Israel, ostensibly on behalf of the Palestinians.

As Jonathan Hait reported in New York Magazine:
“It is true that most anti-Israel protesters do not engage in antisemitic harassment. It is also true that the formal demands associated with anti-Israel protests are legitimate (if not policies I’d endorse) and do not require the collective punishment of American Jews.”

Indeed, but many more protesters are anything but peaceful and seem to be expressing sentiments calling for the destruction of Israel, to “Burn down Tel Aviv,” and that the “only solution is an intifada revolution.” We can’t be surprised when these calls result in a pattern of antisemitic harassment and violence towards Jews.

Columbia student Noah Lederman shared his experience in the pages of Haaretz:

“I was approached by a masked student who took out his phone and pulled up the Hamas insignia on it – two crossed swords in front of the Dome of the Rock mosque. He shoved it in my face and pointed at it saying ’I am with them.’ We asked him why he was even there, and he said, ’For you!’ pointing at us.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the URJ, visited the scene at Columbia and shared the following:

“At their finest, universities are laboratories of ideas and spaces for robust debate. It’s tragic that at Columbia and too many other schools the campus and surrounding neighborhoods have become at best unwelcoming and at worst unsafe for openly Jewish students and faculty. Over the last few days, some of those protesting Israel have spewed out vile antisemitic hate speech that has made Jewish students feel physically threatened. Some of the scenes we’ve been witnessing are profoundly troubling. Administrators have an essential responsibility to protect everyone in their community including Jewish members. Report cards will soon be issued, and it seems clear that there will be some failing grades.

Lederman continued to say:

“Speaking out for Palestinians is something I welcome and support – intimidating, harassing and attacking Jewish students is not. However, the climate on campus has been allowed to deteriorate to a point that it has become possible for demonstrators to feel they are untouchable, despite the arrests of over 100 students last week when the police tried to clear the encampment.”

As the largest Movement in Jewish life in North America, we must raise our voices against this dangerous and antisemitic hate speech. We must show up for those who do not feel safe, and send our message strongly that while we may have our own disagreements and feelings towards the Netanyahu government, we know that Hamas could end the violence and the suffering tomorrow by releasing the hostages and ceasing their fire.

Please spread the word and, for those in the greater New York area, join us on Friday morning near the Columbia campus to raise our voices to bring the hostages home now!

We need North American Jews to show up and join in now.

Moadim L’Simcha and Shabbat Shalom,



P.S. Use your voice now to help the Goldberg-Polin family, and all families of those still held hostage, by urging Secretary Blinken to support continued U.S. leadership toward the successful release of the hostages.