The kidnappers of three Israeli teenagers in Israel are not “freedom fighters” or “activists,” or anything but “terrorists,” New York City Councilman David Greenfield said at a rally organized by NCSY in Manhattan on Sunday morning.
“We’re here today because three innocent children, including one U.S. citizen, have been kidnapped by terrorists and we’re demanding — the international community demands — that these terrorists return our children unscathed,” Greenfield said. His passionate, stirring remarks drew cheers from 500 people at the gathering across from Israel’s Consulate. Teens from NCSY’s New York Region and from other Jewish youth organizations led the rally.
The ongoing search by the Israel Defense Forces for the three Israeli teenagers abducted in Gush Etzion eleven days ago was the impetus for the event. The plight of children and teenagers across the world, and especially the respective situations of more than 200 girls kidnapped by an Islamic terror group in Nigeria more than a month ago, as well as Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, were highlighted.
Senator Charles Schumer of New York spoke, and a letter from his New York colleague, Senator Kirstin Gillibrand, was read aloud by Rachel Knopp, one of the teen organizers. Congressman Eliot Engel, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and State Assemblyman David Weprin all attended and briefly addressed the rally, as did Rabbi Steven Burg, past international director of NCSY, and now Eastern Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. A representative of Governor Andrew Cuomo, David Lobl, read a paragraph of Psalms (Tehillim).
Lade Adeyemi, an advisor to the president of Nigeria, spoke movingly of his strong identification with Israel’s three missing boys — feelings as strong, he said, as those for the girls who remain missing in his native Nigeria.
Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Allen Fagin came to the rally shortly after landing on a flight from Israel, where he met Friday with the Frenkel family.
Mr. Fagin made a point of describing the activity he witnessed in the Frenkel home in Nof Ayalon, including younger children arriving home from the last day of school before summer vacation, report cards in hand.
“I relate these details so that Naftali and his family, and the families of each of the teens, will not be an abstraction,” he said. “Sitting with Naftali’s parents on Friday afternoon was no abstraction. It was painfully real.”
He told the Frenkels that on Sunday Jewish teens of all persuasions would be united in common cause, “and would be standing with them today, and always, in solidarity.”
“What we see in Israel and in Nigeria and other places are that teens are targets of abuse and victims of terror used in the games that adult politicians play,” Rabbi Yehoshua Kohl, director of New York NCSY, said prior to the rally. “Teens across the world need to stand up.”
The story of Gilad, Naftali and Eyal — kidnapped on June 12 when they were hitchhiking home for Shabbat from their yeshivot in the Gush Etzion area — resonated with New York NCSY incoming regional board president Jenna Kessler, 17, of Roslyn.
“We’re the same age as these boys who were captured, “said Jenna, 17, a junior at the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County from West Hempstead. “We wanted to take a stand against it as teenagers.”
Participating organizations included Bnei Akiva, BBYO, Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, Touro College, Birthright Alumni Community NY, Young Judea, The Jewish Agency, MEOR, Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, NFTY and ROOTS. The OU’s NextGen Division and Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) joined as well. Teen leaders of the organizations took the podium throughout the rally.