Political leaders put aside politics and joined with clergy from several denominations in Mineola, L.I., today to raise their voice in a collective call for the release of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers.
“When it comes to supporting Israel, there is no partisanship,” said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, a Democrat. “I fight crime for a living and this crime is so offensive that it demands the world’s attention. The world community must denounce this kidnapping. The U.S. and this administration must do everything it can to help Israel bring back our boys.”
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano was among the six elected officials, three rabbis and 12 community leaders and clergy who stood under a hot noon sun on the rear steps of the Nassau County Human Rights Commission to decry the kidnapping.
“We are here today in a loud voice of solidarity and call for the immediate, safe return of our boys,” he said.
Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum, a Democrat from Great Neck, noted that press conferences and rallies in support of the teens had been held throughout the New York area but that one needed to be held in Nassau County.
“We on Long Island – in our own voices – are here to say, ‘We stand in unity,’” she said.
David Newman, executive director of the JCRC’s Long Island office, introduced Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank, spiritual leader of the Midway Jewish Center in Syosset, at the start of the press conference to blow the shofar.
“It is the Jewish sound of awakening and a call to action,” Newman explained.
Arthur Katz, chairman of the JCRC-L.I., said simply: “Abducting children to make a political statement is intolerable. This is a despicable act of terrorism carried out by violent, inhumane abductors. Violence is no path to negotiation.”
Bruce Blakeman, the Republican challenging Rice for the 4th congressional district seat of retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, pointed out that this district has more Jews than in many cities in Israel.
“It is important we show our solidarity,” he said. “We must not be silent and not be afraid to point a finger at those responsible, Hamas.”
He attended the press conference with Stav Mantzura, the 17-year-old Israeli cousin of a friend who arrived in the U.S. on Tuesday.
“It’s nice to see this in America — that it is not just in Israel that everyone is together on this,” she said of the press conference. “These kids are my age. It could have happened to me. It’s a very sad thing that they’ve kidnapped these kids and taken them hostage.”
Shahar Azani, a spokesperson for the Israeli Consulate in New York, told the assembled media: “When a child is missing, we lose a part of oneself. One can only imagine what the families and friends of the boys are going through. It’s comforting to know that Israel is not facing this darkness alone.”
Michael Miller, executive vice president and CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, which organized the press conference, held aloft a placard bearing the pictures of the three teens, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel.
“What we are calling for is, bring back our boys,” he said. “Shaar is only 16-years-old. He is a great student and a youth leader and a cook. Eyal is 19 and for his high school years he decided to go to a development town where children are not as privileged as he is and learn with them. And Naftali, 16, loves to play basketball and to read the Torah on Shabbat.
“They are fun-loving kids who have causes they engage in. They are kids, boys. It is intolerable, repugnant that anyone could call himself a human being and abduct these boys — children.”