ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 141

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Parents of hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin launch online educational toolkit

‘Everyone Counts’ initiative designed to give people worldwide a pathway to effective, values-based activism on the plight of the hostages in captivity since the October 7 massacre

Rachel Goldberg poses for a portrait on day 98 since her son, Hersh Goldgerg-Polin was kidnapped by Hamas, in Jerusalem, Friday, January 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Rachel Goldberg poses for a portrait on day 98 since her son, Hersh Goldgerg-Polin was kidnapped by Hamas, in Jerusalem, Friday, January 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

With 136 Israeli hostages still in Hamas captivity in Gaza and the global conversation around the Israel-Hamas war growing perpetually more complicated, the parents of one of the hostages have spearheaded the creation of a toolkit to help effectively spread their message.

Everyone Counts is the brainchild of Jon Polin and Rachel Goldberg, parents of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who was taken captive from the Supernova desert rave on October 7 and has yet to be released.

They enlisted the help of M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education, which helps educators and organizations design compelling learning tools with relevance to Jewish life, and Kol HaOt, an organization that aims to enrich “Jewish learning and living” through creative arts.

They then created Everyone Counts, a comprehensive toolkit of educational resources to facilitate meaningful discussion and activism on behalf of the hostages.

The initiative launched on January 14, marking 100 days since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war when Hamas terrorists invaded southern Israel under cover of widespread rocket fire, killed some 1,200 people and took 253 others captive.

Noa Gorlin, Chief Operating Officer of M², explained that Hersh’s parents “were constantly being asked, ‘what else can we do to support you?’ And their response was limited to two or three options. Write to your congressman, call your congressman, share on social media, etc.”

Everyone Counts’ inaugural webinar featured a video message from Rachel Goldberg, who told participants: “Since October 7th, we have reached millions of individuals with our call to action to free our son Hersh and all the hostages… With Everyone Counts, communities across the world have a powerful and growing collection of resources to use as access points to inspire action and call for the hostages’ release.”

This undated photo provided by Rachel Goldberg shows her with her son Hersh Goldberg-Polin. (Courtesy of Rachel Goldberg via AP)

Everyone Counts provides a wide variety of educational tools to help people engage with the biblical concept of pidyon shvuim (redemption of captives) and hostage release in the context of the Israel-Hamas war in a compassionate, impactful way that is rooted in Jewish values.

There is no specific target audience for the toolkit; it is designed for use by English speakers worldwide who want to educate their students, coworkers, congregants, families, or anyone else in their communities.

The site’s home page shows users five “gateways:” Freedom and Justice, Human Dignity and Compassion, Responsibility and Leadership, Peoplehood and Community, and Jewish Moments.

There are five sub-topics in each of the five gateways. Each comes with a guide for discussion facilitators as well as a source sheet with extra information about the subject matter.

Most recently, a Tu Bishvat seder guide was added to the arsenal, including a Haggadah specially adapted and dedicated to raising awareness about the Israeli hostages being held in Gaza and to move participants to advocate on their behalf.

Relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza since the October 7 massacres by Hamas terrorists in southern Israel, protesting near the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on January 21, 2024, demanding that he do more to secure the hostages’ release. (Menahem Kahana / AFP)

“Even if all the hostages are released [today],” Gorlin said, “what we just experienced as a people is a huge issue and is leaving a very strong impact on all of us. As educators, we think this is going to be a crucial narrative for us as a people. It’s a historic issue. The work that we’re creating here is going to be relevant for [a long time], sadly.”

Gorlin added that the Everyone Counts website is not only a resource, but a prayer for the safe return of the hostages alive. “The URL, everyonecounts.live, expresses part of our prayer,” she said through tears. “We could have gone with .com or .org, but we were familiar with .live and decided that it was very appropriate here.”

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