Rabbi Leslie Gordon of Temple Aliyah in Needham, Massachusetts, believes deeply in the Jewish imperative to redeem all of the Israelis held hostage by Hamas in Gaza since the October 7 massacres.
Within days of the surprise massacres in which 3,000 Hamas terrorists infiltrated the country from Gaza and brutally murdered 1,200 Israelis, Gordon convened leaders at her synagogue to launch a blue ribbon project for the 240 Israelis taken hostage that day.
“The blue ribbons project aims to keep the hostages foremost in the thoughts and actions of all Americans as an urgent humanitarian cause,” said Gordon, pointing to the imperative from Joseph Karo’s code of Jewish law regarding the redeeming of hostages.
“The hostages have been overshadowed by other aspects of the crisis,” Gordon told The Times of Israel.
“Blue Ribbons for Life” is the largest national ribbon effort and aims to maintain public awareness of the hostages for as long as possible, said David Goodtree, one of the campaign organizers and Gordon’s husband.
The campaign recently “exhausted the inventory” of its original ribbon manufacturer, said Goodtree. However, an anonymous donor stepped in to fill the gap, while “many people just buy their own ribbon,” said Goodtree.
In recent decades, tree-ribbon campaigns took center stage in US politics, most memorably 44 years ago.
“There was a prominent ribbon campaign during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-80 which had a significant effect on the [failed] reelection of Jimmy Carter,” said Goodtree.
“With our ribbon campaign, we aim to evoke virality like we saw with the Iran hostage crisis,” Goodtree said.
“This virality is a tall order, but it seems increasingly possible each day. While the hostages are still captive, we must,” said Goodtree. (He said his last name is a “coincidence.”)
In the campaign’s first week, blue ribbon for 40,000 trees was donated, said Goodtree. So far, ribbon for 80,000 trees has been distributed to 51 participating organizations, he said.
“Some schools have distributed them to all their households,” said Goodtree. “Towns are starting to give us permits to put them up in public places,” he told The Times of Israel.
“Our goals are visual density and virality. To keep the hostages front and center until they all come home,” said Goodtree.
‘Calls for a ceasefire’
US Rep. Jake Auchincloss, of Newton, Massachusetts, has been one of the most vocally pro-Israel members of Congress since October 7.
According to Goodtree, Auchincloss was the first of at least six US senators or representatives to tie blue ribbons on their Congressional office doors. The congressman appears to bring up the hostages in interviews and on social media whenever possible.
“Calls for a ceasefire should be directed at Hamas — the internationally recognized terrorist organization — not Israel, which is using military force to rescue hostages and defeat the hostage takers,” Auchincloss wrote on Twitter.
“If Israel had acceded to a ceasefire, this hostage deal would not have been agreed,” said Auchincloss, who commanded infantry and reconnaissance soldiers for the US Marine Corps.
“To get all hostages home and to dismantle Hamas, Israel will need the continued support of Congress and the president in rejecting misguided calls for a ceasefire that only one side would respect,” said Auchincloss.
Boston’s Metrowest suburbs — part of which Auchincloss represents in Congress — have been a bulwark of support for Israel since October 7. Several thousand pro-Israel signs were manufactured and placed on lawns in the area.
The ribbon campaign got an early boost from philanthropist Herman Goldberger, who donated enough ribbon for 36,000 trees, according to JewishBoston.com.
“The unity we feel is something special. A person like myself, being Hasidic from Monroe, New York, was eager to do anything I could to help the hostages,” said Goldberger, CEO of Tiger Industries, a major producer of ribbon for the construction industry.
“Something we have manufactured for the last 15 years has a new and important purpose. I am proud we stand together,” said Goldberger.
‘Round the Ole Oak Tree’
Before the Iran hostage crisis, tree ribbon gained fame during the Vietnam War, said Goodtree, referencing the iconic song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” performed by Tony Orlando and Dawn in 1973.
For Americans who came of age in the early 90s, yellow tree ribbon wrapped around trees became a brief fixture during the Gulf War. In schools and front yards, yellow ribbons were a constant reminder that US troops were fighting abroad.
From California to Connecticut, federations, Jewish community centers, and synagogues are distributing ribbon in-person or by home delivery. Some of the efforts resemble one-woman productions, while there are also “Blue Ribbon” Shabbat services and ribbon-related efforts from interfaith Christian organizations.
Boston’s “Blue Ribbons for Life,” however, remains the only national campaign focused on wrapping ribbon around trees, doors, and other outdoor spaces, Goodtree said.
“The blue ribbons are important to me because we as a Jewish people are all connected,” said Boston volunteer Aliza Cooperman.
“It could just have easily been my Israeli nieces or nephews kidnapped or hurt or killed,” Cooperman told The Times of Israel. “We should be doing everything we can to bring all of the hostages home and to keep them in the forefront of our minds,” she added.
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