Madison Jewish leaders pray for peace, comfort at vigil Sunday night

Temple Beth El in Madison held a prayer vigil in response to the war in Israel--hoping to create a safe space for the community at home.
Published: Oct. 9, 2023 at 12:17 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - At a vigil on Sunday night, after a weekend of violence in Israel, Jewish leaders in Madison prayed for peace.

The Jewish Federation of Madison jointly held a prayer vigil with leaders in the area at Temple Beth El in Madison. Organizers say they wanted to create a safe space for those at home as many watch from afar at what is happening in Israel.

The service included a moment of silence, a comforting hug, and songs of praise and prayer. Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Temple Beth El said for many of the Jewish faith, Israel is home.

“It has always been seen as a place where Jews could flee and be safe. Israel has a lot of interesting situations confronting her, but we feel connected very deeply,” said Rabbi Biatch. “We feel a deep connection to the people who are fighting for democracy there too.”

Temple Beth El flags
Temple Beth El flags(WMTV/Camberyn Kelley)

Alan Klugman, the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Madison, says now is a time to come together to help each other get through the situation.

“A show of support for the people of Israel, but also to show support for each other,” said Klugman. “We can only hope and pray for better days and that the additional loss of life will be minimum.”

With at least 1,000 people dead from both sides of the conflict, Rabbi Jonathan Biatch says he has reached out to friends and colleagues in Israel.

“I let them know we’re thinking about them,” said Biatch. “I’ve spent a lot of time in Israel and I feel a very close tie to that place.”

“Our goal for the prayer vigil is to offer prayers for peace and prayers of solidarity,” Rabbi Biatch said. “Those are our relatives, those are our people over there. We need to let them know, and we need to know that we feel in sync with them on an emotional level.”

The unrest in and and around Israel also drew supporters of the Palestinian cause. Multiple generations gathered on the steps of the Wisconsin State Capitol Sunday evening, shouting, “Free Palestine” and opposing the U.S. support for Israel.

“I love my country. My grandfather was kicked out of this country... 75 years ago. We have rights to have this land,” said Duha Alhimidi, one Palestinian protester.

Some other people at the rally said they oppose the state of Israel, but also claimed that religion is not what they are challenging. Rather, they maintain that Muslims, Christians and Jews who live in the region can live in peace together.

Madison police officers patrolled the area of Temple Beth El on Sunday to address security concerns during the vigil.

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