With Israel’s war against Hamas raging on, Temple Avodah, in Oceanside, hosted a major fundraising event in support of Israel on Nov. 9, and the synagogue has raised about $33,000 since the start of the conflict over a month ago.
Temple Avodah organized the fundraising dinner with Kenny Kombert, of Kombert Caterers, and all of the proceeds are going to help the Jewish state.
“Every single person serving food volunteered their time, and I really can’t say enough about how much this means not only to Israel but also to us as Temple Avodah,” Matt Phillips, temple president, said.
More than 100 community members came together for the $180-per-person dinner and cocktail fundraiser. Temple Avodah Rabbi Jeshayahu “Shai” Beloosesky explained that the price of admission held a deeper significance. In Judaism, the number 18 is considered lucky. The Hebrew word “chai” means life, and the numerical value of its letters is eight and 10, adding up to 18. Giving gifts in multiples of 18 symbolically signifies giving the gift of life.
“One hundred eighty for one person, we can eat several dinners in a week, but it’s not about the food, it’s about supporting the State of Israel, now at this moment,” the rabbi said.
Since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, Israelis near the Gaza Strip have required aid. Roughly 1,200 Israelis were killed during the attack and more than 5,000 were injured. Under the direction of Rabbi Beloosesky, the temple will send relief to the Friends of Israel Defense Forces, and emergency medical services such as United Hatzalah and Magen David Adom.
“It’s one thing for people from Temple Avodah to come, but it’s another for the community to come,” Phillips said. “I can’t overstate how good it is that so many people are supporting Israel.”
Nearly six weeks into the war, according to the U.S. State Department, Hamas continued to hold roughly 200 hostages. In Israel’s military response, thousands have reportedly been killed in Gaza, where an estimated 600 Americans remain trapped, officials said.
During the fundraiser, community members paid their respects to the 1,400 Israeli soldiers and citizens who have been killed. Videos were played, updating those in attendance about the current state of affairs in Israel, as well as a video of Broadway performers who had recorded a version of “Bring Him Home” from “Les Misérables” in a tribute to those who remained captive. The names and ages of the victims ran along the bottom of the video, which concluded with a collage of the victims’ faces.
As the conflict plays out, numerous hate crimes and antisemitic incidents have been reported across the globe.
“We saw that people have started to give support, also non-Jewish people, which is very good, although you can see at the same time antisemitism, which is ridiculous,” Beloosesky said.
The temple’s fundraiser took place on the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or “the Night of Broken Glass,” when the Nazis carried out a wave of antisemitic violence on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, which led up to the Holocaust.
For Rabbi Beloosesky, the events taking place in Israel have been especially stressful because his four sons and ex-wife are there. Three of his sons and his ex-wife are currently in the Israel Defense Forces, and due to the war, his youngest son, who is in 12th grade, is working.
“It’s difficult,” the rabbi said. “I’m worried. I have my anxiety and my stress. I have two of them on the front lines, and one is in the Air Force. Since there is no school, the pupils are at work, and my youngest one is working in agriculture. The situation is difficult, and it’s going to be a long war. I don’t have the right words, to say how I feel.”
The rabbi served in Israel’s military for 29 years, rising to assistant to the military secretary to the prime minister and minister of defense under late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. His 84-year-old mother is also in Israel with his sister, in the city of Rishon LeTsiyon, living in a shelter amid the conflict.
“When the missiles come at night, they have to run to the shelter,” the rabbi said. “A lot of people in Israel get hurt or wounded because they’re running, especially at an older age. The situation is difficult.”
The rabbi added that he believes the conflict will not be resolved quickly but appreciates the support that Israel has received from the United States and in Oceanside.
“We’re here to support him,” Marian Keilson, the immediate past president of Temple Avodah, said. “He doesn’t have them at his fingertips, but we’re trying to support him as best we can.”