Israel supporters to gather in force for D.C. rally
Tuesday’s March for Israel, expected to draw some 60,000 people and feature high-profile politicians and celebrities, comes at critical juncture for American Jewry
At a particularly fraught moment for Israel and American Jewry, a historic crowd is expected to pack the National Mall on Tuesday afternoon to show support for Israel, demand the release of the hostages held by Hamas and condemn the antisemitism sweeping through the country.
Over 60,000 people are set to pack the area, from the Capitol’s West Front to the Capitol Reflecting Pool, from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. for the March for Israel rally, according to the Jewish Federations of North America, which noted that the permit for the event allows for that number of people. The event is set to feature a lineup of prominent figures, interfaith leaders and more than 100 family members of Israelis being held captive in Gaza by Hamas. The hostages’ relatives traveled to the gravesite of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in Queens, N.Y., last night, ahead of their journey to Washington.
Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America, the group organizing the event along with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told Jewish Insider that the event aims to rekindle the energy of huge Jewish community rallies on the National Mall in D.C., during the Second Intifada in 2002 and in support of Soviet Jews in 1987, which had turnouts of 100,000 and 250,000, respectively.
The rally will also include top congressional leaders, Israeli officials and notable celebrities.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) headline the congressional lineup of speakers. They will be joined by Reps. Kathy Manning (D-NC), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), co-chairs of the bipartisan task force focused on combating antisemitism.
Also speaking will be: Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog, and Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism.
The rally is scheduled to open with remarks from CNN political commentator and civil rights activist Van Jones and will include speeches from actors Debra Messing and Tovah Feldshuh.
Soviet dissident and former Israeli politician Natan Sharansky, Arielle Mokhtarzadeh of the Milken Institute and Mijal Bitton of the Shalom Hartman Institute are expected to speak during a “Freedom” segment.
The rally was scheduled around when Congress will be in session and considering emergency supplemental aid to Israel, which Fingerhut called “an important element of this march.”
“We believe people are going to show up, and that they must show up, and that they will come at the designated time for showing up… this is a moment when everyone knows it is their responsibility to come,” he told JI.
Family members of the 240 Israelis held hostage in Gaza who plan to speak include Orna Neutra, the mother of Omer Neutra; Alana Zeitchik, the cousin of six hostages; and Rachel Goldberg, the mother of Hersh Goldberg-Polin.
The march is expected to draw participants from a wide spectrum of the Jewish community, ranging from the Zionist Organization of America to Americans for Peace Now, in addition to representatives of the Orthodox Union, United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism and the Union for Reform Judaism. Agudath Israel of America, which three years ago reaffirmed its opposition to Zionism, encouraged people to attend, sharing the poster for the march on X.
The rally is also expected to draw large numbers of interfaith leaders and members, including Christians United for Israel’s executive board and thousands of other Christians. Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of CUFI and founder and senior pastor of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas; Dr. Rochelle Ford, president of Dillard University, a historically Black college in New Orleans; and Anila Ali, a Pakistani American Muslim and women’s rights activist are slated to take to the stage in a session called “Voices of Allies.”
“During Israel’s darkest hour, millions of Christian Zionists across the country want to ensure that Israel, and her people, know they are not alone. CUFI has members and leaders flying into our nation’s capital from as far away as Alaska, Arizona and Alabama to ensure our elected officials on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue understand that America’s Christians and Jews stand together, and we stand with Israel,” Hagee told JI ahead of the march.
Israeli musicians Omer Adam and Ishay Ribo as well as the a cappella group the Maccabeats are slated to perform multiple times throughout the day.
One of the final sessions will include two college students, Sabrina Soffer (George Washington University) and Noa Fay (Columbia University), who will speak about the surge of antisemitism that has hit college campuses since Oct. 7.
Jewish day school students as well as college students from across North America — including those participating in groups such as Hillel, BBYO, Young Judaea — are invited to gather for a pre-march rally.
Dozens of schools around the country are bringing plane and busloads of students, including The Ida Crown Jewish Academy, a Modern Orthodox high school in Skokie, Ill.
Rabbi Dr. Leonard Matanky, dean of Ida Crown, which is bringing its entire senior class of 60 students, told JI last week, “This is a critical moment in our history, and this is a time when our students need to recognize that they need to be seen and their voices need to be heard.”