Notes From the War – November 17, 2023

May I still use the word “exhilarated,” or has a certain Cornell professor banished it from the use of decent people? Assuming it is allowed, it describes the way everyone I spoke to felt about the rally in DC a few days ago. Granted, the crowd I move in is a curious mélange of yeshivish olim, frum working Anglos, and Dati Leumi friends, but it still means something.

I was surprised by how many had made a point to tune in. Once they did, most said they were mesmerized by the event, and stayed with it the full distance.

Why was it exhilarating? Because you could feel the achdus of a people that had come together. Every different religious and secular sub-community was represented. (Well, almost. I don’t want to write about the “almost” just now, in the middle of the war.) It was a brilliant move to have the cameras trained on the young people there, to see their enthusiasm and commitment. I don’t know whether MSM captured any of it, but the contrast between our kids and the hooliganism of the Hamas supporters in cities around the country was apparent to all. The DC cops certainly got it.

If achdus is indeed what Chazal point to as the way to win wars, the American Jewish community, for all its divisions, showed that millions of Jews still operate as a family.

Those of us old enough to remember previous rallies were bowled over by how Jewish (rather than Jew-ish) it was. The organizers are to be commended for leaving out all rabbis, avoiding a source of internecine conflict and discomfort. That worked out well – particularly for the Torah-abiding community. Ishai Ribo did a better job of giving the event a “yiddishe taam” than virtually any rabbi we could have tapped as a speaker. At previous events (which the yeshiva world, contrary to the revisionists, participated in), the frum community felt like outsiders, as they had to listen to the words of people who seldom, if ever, invoked Hashem. On Tuesday, Ishai somehow engineered that the event pretty much began with a recitation of Tehillim, line by line. (A guitar strumming in the background turned that into the “musical” performance he had been billed to give in that slot.)

Besides his other songs, all full of yearning for Hashem, he managed to end with both a Shema Yisrael (Did we hear correctly? Shema by 290,000. Such a shout did not need the Shaarei Shomayim to open for it. The pressure surely must have knocked down the doors!) and more devekus. Who could have imagined that this would be part of a mass rally?

Even the secular organizers found ways to mention G-d! Who would have imagined?

Who would have thought that the kol isha that was standard fare in the past would give way to a monopoly on musical performance by Ishai and the Maccabeats?

Which leads to the next point. It was a banner day for American Jews. But it was particularly so for Orthodoxy. The imprint of Orthodoxy was all over the event. The points mentioned above. The fact that Ishai did not have to translate his words, because so much of the crowd understood them. The fact that the organizers knew that music by Ishai Ribo and by the Maccabeats would be recognized by the non-Orthodox, and appreciated by them. All this speaks of the Orthodox having taken over Jewish culture in America! Gone are the days when we had to beg for some scraps of recognition. It was clear that it was the Orthodox alone who had the best chance of soldiering on (if they decide to stay in America, which is a different conversation).

Orthodox ascendancy was evident without discomfiting the 90% of American Jews who do not identify as Orthodox. There was plenty in the program for them and their message. In other words, different groups, with very different life-styles and ideologies, were able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as one people, one family – including listening to some chants that were hashkafically unacceptable – like “Never Again” without burning holes in frum eardrums.

Surely this was nachas ruach to HKBH, Who wants to show off the achdus of His people. Because the reason that they are one, is because He is One.

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32 Responses

  1. Steven Lindell says:

    Correction: “…if they decide to sTay in America…”

    What exactly is unacceptable about saying “Never Again” ?

    What a beautiful essay! It is always a pleasure to read your writings.

    • Great to hear from you, Steve! I’m in Philly from time to time, visiting my kids in Lower Merion. Would love to see you.

      Thanks for pointing out the typo. It’s been corrected.

      There is nothing wrong with the words, “Never Again.” They can, and should, be uttered as a wish, a prayer to Hashem “We’ve been through enough. Please, G-d, make sure that it never happens again.” The words are often chanted, however, as a declarative sentence. “We won’t let it happen again! We’ve been there before. This time, we are not as helpless, and we won’t allow a repetition.” That attitude is objectionable. It always was – but more so after Oct. 7th when we saw that the impossible could indeed happen.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Ki anu amecha…

  3. i don’t think you can ignore the ‘Elephant in the room’ Which is that the rally was deemed Assur p forbidden to attend by a signed decree of 5 members of the Agudah Moetzes. starting with my former ‘older’ Chavrusa in Telshe, Yitzchok Sorotzkin calling it ‘Chazer Treif!’. The other Moetzes members that did not sign were silent on the matter – which indicates tacit agreement with them (Shtika K’Hoda’ah).

    In their eyes, you and all the religious Jews that attended that rally ate pork!

    R’ Yitzchok: I think you need to address this point. I did on my blog, Twice. So did R’ Berel Wein in a widely circulated audio recording.

    • Dear Harry,

      I think that at the moment, we can ignore said elephant. It’s just not the right time. See

      You can imagine what thoughts are going through my mind – which I am deliberately not making public. My simple understanding is that the most important spiritual weapon is achdus, without diminishing the importance and efficacy of the other spiritual remedies. It is achdus alone that Chazal point to as the way to win wars. I don’t want to compromise that.

      The other members of the Moetzes will have to speak for themselves. It should be pointed out that R. Sholom Kamenetsky is the head of the vaad hachinuch of the girls’ high school in Phila. The school hired busses and went as a group. R. Sholom’s wife, I’m told, went to the rally as a private individual. I think it is more than a good bet that his father, who is the elder statesman of the Moetzes, did not concur with the contents ot the letter

      • Bob Miller says:

        My daughter chaperoned the group of Bais Yaakov of Baltimore students (Grades 7-12) who went to the rally.
        Rav Heinemann of Agudath Israel of Baltimore sent this out via email:

        Mon, Nov 13 at 10:09 AM

        The Rov שליט”א strongly encourages that anyone who is able should attend the rally at the National Mall on Tuesday.

        The Associated of Baltimore has put out information relating to traveling to the rally via the MARC train:

        Those wishing to travel by the MARC train are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance. The train can be taken from Penn Station to Union Station, and from there one can either walk or take the metro to get to National Mall. Please be advised that there are limited spaces at the Penn Station parking lot.

        Information about the rally can be found at

        Agudath Israel of Baltimore
        6200 Park Heights Ave
        Baltimore, MD 21215

    • Mark says:

      There’s no elephant in the room. The Moetzes letter was very clear about their position and it’s been spoken about plenty. Whether or not you agree is beside the point. If Rabbi Sorozkin was kind enough to give you his time when you were both young is also immaterial and does nothing to lend credence to your view.

      The facts are that the five signees are all outstanding Talmidei Chachomim, leaders of the US Charedi world, and whether we understand or agree with them is not the point. They spoke to their followers and it to them that their words were addressed.

      They never said that “all Jews that attended the rally ate pork!” either. One need not be a great talmid chochom to understand how this phrase is used and intended. All one needs is to put down his axe with which he regularly grinds at the Charedi world.

      Achdus means allowing divergent views to flourish even when one doesn’t agree with them. It doesn’t mean that everyone thinks alike and agrees on all points.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Harry, you often seem fixated on selected news highlights about the “elephant”. Much more is going on. If you’ve ever been on a board with more assertive and less assertive members, you know that the quiet ones don’t necessarily agree. Here, real movement will occur at lower levels, including the rank and file. Both good and not-so-good edicts are often brushed aside in practice.

    • Chana Siegel says:

      Rabbi Wein’s comment was particularly moving.

  4. Sidney Stadler says:

    Chazak u’varuch

  5. Bob Miller says:

    Jews also need unity of purpose on the US academic front. Talkin’ ’bout my Alma Mater:

  6. Steven Brizel says:

    One looks forward to an AgudH mission to Israel which is geared towards being Bikur Cholim Nichum Aveilim and helping the IDF and the Israeli economy with the same sense of Achdus as the Charedi world in Israel

  7. William Lawrence Gewirtz says:

    My hope that this attempt at destroying klal Yisroel, has the opposite effect. The article by Rabbi Pfeffer:, the proper scope of daat Torah that is now more apparent, the unity displayed by participation by all but the few, etc. may lead to a unity that in the past decades has been absent.

  8. Shades of Gray says:

    “The DC cops certainly got it.”

    R. Eliezer Eisenberg of Chicago quoted on his blog a member of his shiur who was at the rally, “Passing three DC Mall officers, I thanked them for being here today. One of them replied “You are the kindest group I have ever pulled duty for. I have had more thanks today than in all 25 years of service…” R. Eisenberg also discusses his personal opinion about the Yeshiva opposition to participation in the rally which is “based on a lifetime of close relationships with Gedolei Torah”(“The November 14 Rally in Washington,” Beis Vaad L’Chachamim, 11/15/23)

    Similarly, I remember reading that after the 2012 Siyum Hashas in MetLife Stadium, a New Jersey transit police officer in the vicinity was jotting something down in a notebook every time someone passed him by. When asked what he was doing, he said he was counting all of the people who thanked him on their way home from the siyum.

    At the most recent Siyum HaShas in 2020, I recalled that 2012 incident, and I decided to test it out myself. My ride rushed to leave during the end of maariv, but even lingering for just a minute in front of the stadium, I observed a number of people thanking the stadium staff !

  9. Shades of Gray says:

    “At previous events (which the yeshiva world, contrary to the revisionists, participated in)”

    In R. Hanoch Teller’s book about the Bostoner Rebbe, Rabbi Levi L. Horowitz, I remember seeing a picture taken in front of a bus showing Bostoner Chassidim from Brookline who were delegates to Washington to demonstrate on behalf of Israel(I think circa 1960s or 1970s). Included were R. Dovid Gottleib and R. Aaron Twersky. The Rebbe himself participated in The Rabbis’ March in 1943, per Wikipedia(quoting from Haaretz and Jerusalem Post).

    Rabbi Moshe Brown, Rosh Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, passionately recalled the 1967 rally (as transcribed by R. Slifkin from audio linked below):

    “In 1967, when I was in Baltimore, I saw my rosh yeshiva, Rav Ruderman ztz”l, how he dealt with an eis tzara, with the war of ‘67. And I can tell you that it was not possible to talk to him that week. There was no eating, there was no sleeping… And then, of course, they had a rally in Washington, and I don’t know the exact number, but it was well into six figures, the number of people that participated, including ALL the yeshivos, all with their Roshei Yeshiva. Including, I remember, Philadelphia went, led by Rav Elya Svei himself. Telz came with its Roshei Yeshiva. There was no chiluk (divisions) – right, left, center, it didn’t make any difference. EVERYBODY went.”

  10. Steven Brizel says:

    So ,much for Biden’s purportedly strong support for for Israel which was alwys predicated on talk being cheap Can any student of hostory here point to a war where combat was stopped so that POWs could be exchanged?

    That certainly was not the case in WW2 after Japan marched American POWs through the Bataan Death March. In the Civil war, Lincoln stopped any exchanges after it became apparent that the Confederacy was benefiting from such exchamges See here as to exchanges in the Korean war after an armistice was signed,were%20released%20as%20free%20civilians. and here re Vietnam,them%20the%20war%20was%20over.

    Like it or not while bringing the hostages home is important, they were prisoners of war taken by Hamas and Israel had Hamas by the ropes in a war that had as its stated strategic purpose in restoring Israeli security anddeterrence the eradication of Hamas-one can certainly question whether the exchange will have an effect on the sky high morale of the IDF which was very motivated by this goal and the well documented national unity that Hamas , Yimach Shmam v Zicram, just like Hitler and Haman Yimach Shmam vZicram effectuated

    Listen to this shiur by RHS
    which mentions the questionning of RYK ZL about the proposed Pidyon Shevuyim of R Hutner ZL during a wartime period that had begun in 1948 and was ongoing and many other halachic issues involving the army. One could add to this list the consideration of the fact that the Maharam Meruttenberg refused to rescused because of the prohibitive cost of such Pidyon Shevuyim

    • Reb Yid says:

      This comment from someone who not so long ago severely doubted that ANY hostages would be released. Give our President his due here.

      And Biden has allowed Israel to operate with impunity to date. It has cost him dearly on the political front. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

      • Steven Brizel says:

        How many IDF soldiers whether regular soldiers or reservists have been released? Talk remains cheap from a president who is attempting to micro manage or prevent Israel from finishing the job and who represents the unwillingness of Democrats since Vietnam to view war as a means of securing a real peace and who instead have appeased Communism and terrorists since the 1970s

      • Steven Brizel says:

        As long as Biden is ignoring Iran’ massive support for Hamas and Hezbollah anything he says about Israel is an example of why talk is cheap and instead should be looked at by his attempts to micromanage what Israel does in Gaza -which was Obama’s strategy as well

    • Bob Miller says:

      Israel is over-reliant on US war materiel supply and resupply. It follows that Biden’s hateful team holds that over Bibi’s head and expects to make Israel obey.

      • Reb Yid says:

        Biden is more popular in Israel than Bibi.

        He’s showing true, real, responsible and empathetic leadership. Israelis can only dream of any of this today.

  11. Shades of Gray says:

    I attended the Washington rally on a bus that left from the Boro Park Y. There was a Chasidish person with long peyos on my bus and a number of black hats at the rally. On the bus, each person did their own thing, but there was learning, davening, as well as Tehilim, the latter on the loudspeaker.

    You could already feel the unity at the Biden Welcome Center, a large rest stop off of I-95 in Delaware where many buses and Jews were milling around. As R. Larry Rothwachs wrote on his blog, at the rally, the essence of the beracha of “Chacham Harazim” was palpable which expresses the awe at the miracle of human diversity. R. Ron Yitzchok Eisenman likewise mentioned “Chacham Harazim” as well as the Mishnah in Sukkah that “he who has not seen the rejoicing of the water-drawing ceremonies has never in his life seen joy!”

    Natan Sharansky spoke movingly that just as the image of one Jewish fighting family who were supportive of him sustained him in the long years in Russian prison, it can also overpower the dark shadow hanging over the Jewish state right now.

    The Tehilim, tefillah, and songs were inspiring. I think I saw people from the kiruv group Olami, and the organizers attempted to broaden the appeal to non-Orthodox Jews such as USY and NFTY youth and even towards the leftwing American’s for Peace Now. Thus, for example, reggae star Matisyahu sang “One Day”, an anthem promoting world peace and unity, and some big-name celebrities spoke.

    There were clever parodies of Hamas supporters on people’s signs and chants, such as, “From the river to the West, they will come for you next.” Another sign read “I will bless those who bless you and curse the one who curses you,” which the rav in the shul where I davened a few weeks ago applied to criticism of Israel in his Shabbos derasha.

    The email I received before the rally from the Boro Park Y read, “Looking forward to much hatzlacha and making a huge difference for Klal Yisroel while also making a true kiddush Hashem with this event.” These goals were indeed realized.

  12. Steven Brizel says:

    Those who are complaining about the slow release of hostages by Sinwar and Hamas should realize that such negotiations encourage furtive hostage taking by Hamas which is supposed by 75% of the Arabs in the PA and Gaza

  13. Steven Brizel says:

    Since Hamas violated the ceasefire by launching rockets into Israel and by its actions in Yerushalayim and clearly had no intent of releasing any hostages who were in the IDF and was not releasing families in their entirety the IDF is back on the offensive Hopefully Sinwar who promised more attacks won’t make it out of Gaza alive and Israel will hit the heads of Gaza outside of Gaza as well

    One should note that the head of military intelligence for the IDF apparently was so preoccupied with toppling Netanyahu pre 10/7 that he discounted credible intelligence on the ground in southern Israel that Hamas was planning its attack on 10/7 This sounds eerily reminiscent of the same attitude that pervaded the IDF intelligence establishment pre YK in 1973

  14. Steven Brizel says: You can’t blame Bibi if the vaunted IDF and its chief of intelligence which seemingly like the American defense establshment before Pearl Harbor, dismissed the facts on the ground and even suppressed discussion of the same.

    • Reb Yid says:

      The buck stops here. Bibi ran on the “Mr. Security” tag.

      This emperor has no clothes.

      • Steven Brizel says:

        Were either FDR or Churchill voted out of office during WW2 ?

      • Reb Yid says:

        As a matter of fact, Churchill WAS voted out of office before the end of WWII.

        And FDR did not live to see the end of WWII.

  15. Steven Brizel says:

    The ceasefire is over and Israel is doing what has to be done to eradicate Hamas which clearly is a a Nazi regime dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish People while Biden attempts to make Israel fight with its hands tied behind its back

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