Letter-writing campaign

OU gathers more than 180,000 letters to Biden to commemorate 180 days of Hamas hostage crisis

The campaign calls on the Biden administration to work toward the release of the hostages

Courtey orthodox union

Rabbi Shay Schachter, Rabbi Yisrael Motzen, and Nathan Diament (left to right) carry boxes of letters to the White House

To mark the 180 days that the 134 hostages who remain in Gaza have been in Hamas custody, the Orthodox Union collected more than 180,000 letters to President Joe Biden urging the administration to work toward their release, and hand-delivered many to the White House on Wednesday.

The campaign was launched less than a week prior, and asked Biden to stand with Israel as it continues its war against Hamas, to work to free the hostages and do more to combat antisemitism at home.

“Hundreds of thousands of members of the American Jewish community have spoken on their own behalf,” Rabbi Moshe Hauer, the executive vice president of the OU, said in a press conference blocks from the White House on Wednesday. “We need the president and his administration to do more.”

Hauer also lamented the fading global outrage and “lack of moral clarity” about Hamas, in comparison with Hamas’ continued efforts to endanger Palestinian civilians, and said that Israel is being held to a standard that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are not.

“We have an antisemitism problem in the United States of America,” Hauer added. “What the president and his administration say about Israel in this conflict is affecting it deeply. We need you, Mr. President, we need the administration to speak loudly and clearly.”

He said that he pro-Israel community appreciates the administration’s support, “but we need them to stay with us, until it ends. Until it ends favorably, until Israel finishes the job, until our students and our citizens, Jews and Muslims and everybody in this country can walk and live without fear and until every hostage is home.”

Other speakers at the press conference included Maurice Shnaider, the uncle of hostage Shiri Bibas; Rachel Polin, the mother of hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin; University of Maryland student Keren Binyamin; Holocaust survivor Bronia Brandman; Rabbi Shay Schachter; and Nathan Diament, the OU’s executive director of public policy.

Shnaider spoke tearfully about his niece and her children, who are also hostages, criticizing the United Nations and the International Red Cross for a lack of action, as well as the media, for allowing the hostage crisis to fade from the headlines.

“It’s been 180 days too many,” he told Jewish Insider, adding that the letters were a message that “we are not giving up, we will fight until the last hostage [is] back home. It’s not only about my family. It’s about the 134 that are left.”

“We don’t want to get to 360,000 [letters], but we’ll do it if necessary,” he continued. “We will never give up. We are not going to forget. We are going to continue fighting with the forums from all over the world until the last hostage is back.”

Attendees subsequently walked to the White House to deliver the first 100,000 letters — the most the White House would allow them to bring in one day, Hauer said — and the OU plans to deliver the remainder in the coming days.

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