By Shira Firestone
On November 14, 2023, the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte (JFGC) made a significant impact at the March for Israel on the National Mall in Washington D.C. Playing a pivotal role amidst the largest turnout in U.S. history, JFGC galvanized our community’s support, contributing to the success of this unprecedented event. Mobilizing at least 250 Charlotte-area attendees, JFGC demonstrated its unparalleled capacity to unite and lead. The extensive logistical feat of chartering three buses and coordinating others who drove or flew on short notice highlighted the organization’s commitment and capability. The Leon Levine Foundation through a grant to the bolster JFGC’s infrastructure during these times, removed financial barriers that would have otherwise existed, allowing JFGC to effectively respond to the tremendous community interest in attending the rally.
The March for Israel, co-organized by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, was historic not only in its cause but also in its scale. Over 290,000 participants demonstrated in person, with an additional 250,000 joining via livestream, making it the largest pro-Israel Jewish gathering in U.S. history.
Douglas Greene, JFGC government and public affairs associate, shared his perspective: “The Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte stood united with almost 290,000 individuals at this historic event. JFGC’s mobilization of staff, families, and community members was a testament to our unyielding support for Israel. This rally was more than symbolic; it was a powerful declaration of solidarity, strengthening our community’s resolve and fostering connections that reinforce our commitment to Israel’s cause.”
The March for Israel was more than an event; it was a powerful demonstration of the Jewish community’s unity and commitment. In a time marked by rising antisemitism, this unprecedented turnout sent a clear message: the majority of Jews stand firmly together in their support of Israel. This historic gathering dispelled any misconceptions about the Jewish community’s stance, showcasing our unwavering commitment to Israel’s defense, the denouncement of growing antisemitism, and a call for the immediate release of hostages held by Hamas.
From the podium, voices of prominence amplified that commitment. U.S. Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt powerfully denounced antisemitism, saying, “I can tell you without hesitation, regardless of party or political persuasion at the White House or in the Congress, at home and abroad, this government stands shoulder to shoulder against Jew hatred. We stand arm in arm to combat antisemitism.” She continued, “Today in America we give antisemitism, no sanction, no foothold, no tolerance. Not on campus, not in grade school, not in our neighborhoods, not in our streets of the streets of our cities, not in our government, nowhere, not now, not ever.”
Israel’s President Isaac Herzog joined virtually and poignantly emphasized the rally’s purpose: “80 years ago, Jews came out of Auschwitz and vowed never again … Let us cry out together. Never again. Never again. Never again is now.”
The National Mall was a vivid tapestry of support, blanketed with signs in support of Israel and people waving national flags, both American and Israeli, but also with signs depicting the faces of the 240 hostages still being held by Hamas. Families of hostages spoke movingly to a crowd that chanted “Bring Them Home.”
Hope and optimism for our people’s future were on display as Jewish youth, nationally and from Charlotte, were visible and strong at the rally. National leaders of Hillels, BBYOs, and other organizations set the tone for the rally with preliminary remarks, songs, and spoken word. From Charlotte, approximately 20 teens were in attendance, representing every youth group available in our city. USY, NFTY, BBYO, ClubZ, and CTeen were all represented. Alan Johnathan, director of youth and family engagement, noted, “Much like our Jewish community in Charlotte, every teen had various reasons for going … they could come together with their fellow Jews in solidarity to show ahavat Yisrael, love for the Jewish people and Israel.”
The teens had much to offer, but they came home with something important, as well. Jonathan continued, “The overwhelming majority of our teens found the experience fun. For almost 22 hours, they were surrounded by their Jewish peers, singing, laughing, chanting, praying, and enjoying the moment, something some had not truly had a chance to do since Oct. 7. After weeks of being bombarded by antisemitism and the deafening silence of their peers, they could come together with their fellow Jews in solidarity to show ahavat Yisrael, love for the Jewish people and Israel.”
The March for Israel was a clear declaration of our community’s solidarity with Israel and our determination to fight antisemitism. The message was unmistakable: America and America’s Jews stand with Israel.