NEW YORK – Hundreds of young New York professionals gathered at a bar in Manhattan’s Lower East Side for a #BringBackOurBoys fundraiser Wednesday night.
Crowded onto hip The DL’s rooftop lounge, they grabbed some free Pitopia pita, a drink or two, and huddled around for the evening’s program of speeches and club dancing to a backdrop of Israeli flags.
Organizer Uri Turk, a former Israel Defense Forces soldier now living and working in New York, said he searched for a way to be proactive in the international campaign for the three Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, abducted on their way home from school June 12.
Turk decided to show solidarity with Israel, raise awareness of the abduction and gather funds to be donated to organizations that support IDF soldiers and make their lives easier.
The three chosen organizations were the LIBI Fund of the IDF, which works often with immigrants; PizzaIDF, which delivers pizza to soldiers on the frontlines; and The Lone Soldier Center, which caters to immigrant soldiers who serve without family in Israel.
“We inquired about raising money for the boys’ families themselves and were told by trusted sources that it was not appropriate at this time,” Turk said in an email. “Therefore we decided to raise funds for the brave IDF soldiers searching day and night for the boys. We chose these three specific groups because they all help out the IDF, in slightly different ways.”
Attendees paid $20-$25 and had the opportunity to purchase T-shirts for the cause. A portion of the bar’s proceeds also goes towards the three organizations. Participants had the opportunity to sign a poster that will be sent to the families of the three kidnapped teens.
Once the room filled up, former ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon and Naftali Fraenkel’s cousin Manny Halberstam spoke, thanking the New Yorkers for their support and urging a push to increase awareness and pressure on the world. Halberstam spoke of not losing faith and fervor as time passes without the teens’ return.
“Israel is resolute in doing everything in our power to bring back our boys,” said Ayalon. “I, like all Israelis, have full confidence in our intelligence forces and IDF. Our job should be first and foremost to support the families and Israeli society.
“This spontaneous gathering should be an example here in the United States and throughout the world because there should be awareness and condemnation and continued pressure, not just on Hamas, but there also should be a message to the Palestinians that such barbarity cannot go without consequences,” said Ayalon.
After the speeches, the crowd danced to Israeli music provided by DJ Ariel Bloom and a surprise appearance by popular Jewish world music band Soul Farm.
Guests at the event said they were happy to do something to show their support and contribute to the cause.
“Many people struggle with the fact that they feel frustrated that there’s nothing they can do tangibly to contribute. Therefore we feel briefly relieved that we can participate in an event that feels supportive,” one participant explained.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article carried an inappropriate headline, for which we apologize.