JTA — They went to Washington to support Israel and left the rally with a deepened sense of the Jewish community in the United States.
So said teenagers who were among the estimated 290,000 Israel supporters who gathered on the National Mall on Tuesday — one of the largest gatherings of Jews in US history.
The teens, representing a significant part of the crowd, came to march for Israel and fight against antisemitism following Hamas’s October 7 attack, in which Palestinian terrorists slaughtered some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took at least 240 hostages.
JTA’s Teen Journalism Fellows were at the March for Israel to report on their peers’ experiences throughout the day; many heard from teens that they would be returning home inspired by the number of people, the range of Judaism represented, the support of non-Jewish allies and the overall feeling of hope.
Here’s what nine young people who were proud to be a part of the historic gathering said during their day in DC.
Isaac Shalit, 14, Austin, Texas
World War I Memorial, 10:34 a.m.
I’m feeling great. Everywhere you see there are people to represent Israel. It’s great to see that there are a bunch of other people coming together for the same reason you are.
[At the minyan outside the White House Tuesday morning] there was a lot of singing, a lot of dancing. You saw completely different sects, completely different parts of Judaism. A guy in a full suit with a hat on, dancing with a guy without even a kippah on. It was great seeing everyone coming together for Israel.
Lior Markus, 16, Toronto, Ontario
The National Mall, 11:59 a.m.
I haven’t felt this many presence of Jews since I was last in Israel. There’s a nice sense of patriotism of sorts — everyone is here to support our country, our people, our nation. It’s beautiful, beautiful to see.
Juju Jennet, 17, Washington, D.C.
The National Mall, 12:10 p.m.
I’m here to support my fellow Jewish people and stand up against antisemitism. It’s amazing to see all the Jewish people here and even supporters that aren’t Jewish. It’s just crazy to see these numbers, and it feels great that so many people are in support of Israel and are standing up against Hamas and rising antisemitism.
Yoshi Polotsky, 13, Denver, Colorado
The National Mall, 12:25 p.m.
I’m here to represent Israel in the fight against Hamas. My heritage shows how much I love Israel. It feels like a really big community here. It’s a warm, fuzzy family.
Adin Linden, 17, New York City
The National Mall, 2:19 p.m.
I’m here to show my support for Israel, and to show the people who are fighting back against Israel in America that we’re stronger than them. We’re more united.
I’ve seen people from all different parts of my life, but also people who are more religious, people who are less religious, all different races, genders. It’s just very powerful to see all these different groups coming together.
Emma Shalmiyev, 17, Lower Merion, Philadelphia
Recorded on the bus returning home from the rally, 5:29 p.m.
I feel moved and inspired. Each speaker expressed so much emotion. It was crazy and uplifting to see so many people come. The rally also showed me that people do care — not just Jews — and that there are so many of us. I didn’t realize that before.
I remember thinking at the rally, there is hope. There may have been hope before but now there is so much more!
Hadas Winberg, 15, Newton, Massachusetts
At the airport coming home from the rally, 7:41 p.m.
I went [to the rally] to have an impact on powerful people. But I also went to boost morale. For example, my aunt, who lives in Israel, shared that she was looking forward to hearing about the news in D.C. because all the news lately has been so bad. So I was also there to be part of something that positively impacts civilians and makes them feel supported. That is the most important thing that we can do now.
Aliya R., 15, Bronx, New York
On the bus heading home from the rally, 8:46 p.m.
I wanted to come to this rally because I feel really connected to my Jewish identity and culture. I also knew that this was something that I’d remember forever — and a memory that I can pass on to future generations. So many people coming to stand up for Israel is very powerful.
I was horrified and devastated for the families who’ve lost loved ones and those whose family members are wounded or being held hostage. I wanted to show solidarity and let them know that we’re all here to support them.
Chinka Fried, 19, Israeli living in Lower Merion, Philadelphia
Recorded at home after the rally, 10:26 p.m.
I came to the rally to show support for Medinat Israel [the State of Israel] and Eretz Israel [the land of Israel], and to bring the [hostage] kids home. I saw the strength of the Jewish community in the US. There were so many people — so many different people and communities.
I was very inspired. But I was also sad because we congregated as a result of tragedy in Israel and antisemitism in the US. Nonetheless, I am proud of the US community and how it stands up for Israel. That was really nice to see.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.
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