From families with children in strollers to a member of the United States Congress, more than 1,400 people walked through the streets of Highland Park Sunday as part of the Jewish United Fund’s (JUF) annual Israel Solidarity Day.
One of those families was David, Dena, Gabriella and Danielle Cooperman of Highland Park. Danielle, the youngest, was pushed in a stroller by her older sister Gabriella, who had a special role at the event. She's a member of the children’s choir from North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, which sang the national anthems of the United States and Israel to kick the day off.
"I’m leading the Star Spangled Banner and Hatikvah (The Hope)," Gabrielle said.
Gabrielle’s parents were there both to show support for Israel and to teach their children.
"We want to show our kids to be part of something greater," Dena Cooperman said. "We are here to be part of the community, show our support for Israel and the entire Jewish community."
'The American-Israel relationship'
Two weeks ago, Dold went on a JUF mission to Israel with a number of area residents including Sandy Perl of Glencoe, who walked Sunday's route with the Congressman. Michael Klein of Winnetka and Steve Ritchie of Glencoe also walked with Dold.
"We must stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel and let [the Israelis] know we will never leave their side," Dold said. "I promise to stand on the floor of Congress and lead on the issue of the American-Israel relationship."
Two people who needed no encouragement to stand by Israel’s side were David Schoeneman and Molly Dillon of Highland Park. Schoeneman walked with his grandchildren, Noah and Zoe Parker of Evanston. He literally wrapped himself in an Israeli flag.
"[Israel Solidarity] is very emotional for me," Schoeneman said. "I volunteer there with the army."
"I wear this every day," he added, displaying a dog tag with the names of three Israeli soldiers—Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Shalit is an Israeli soldier who was captured by Hamas while on patrol near Gaza five years ago. A few days after Shalit’s capture, Goldwasser and Regev were kidnapped by Hezbollah near the Lebanese frontier precipitating the Second Lebanon War. Shalit is still held captive. The other men died in captivity.
Dillon, a 2011 Johns Hopkins University graduate, was wearing an Israeli Navy T-shirt. She recently returned from a Birthright trip—a free trip to Israel offered to Jewish youth by JUF—where she traveled the country with a combined group of Americans and Israelis.
"Now I know people my age who are in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) making the conflict there very real," Dillon said.
Making it 'real'
While Gabrielle Cooperman led the national anthems, Talia and Naomi Gooze of Glenview stood on the base of a light pole to catch a better view. They came with their father Adam, who is a solidarity day veteran.
"I’ve done this every year for 10 years and before that when I was a kid," Gooze said. "I spent the summer [in Israel] when I was 16 with kids going into the army. It makes it very real. I hope my girls will be bat- mitzvah there."
Some supporters walked alone and others with family or friends. Entire congregations, like Am Ysirael of Northfield, strolled together. Cheryl Wittenstein of Glenview, Stu Witzel of Wilmette, Earl Smith of Deerfield and Daniel Kamin of Highland Park walked the route carrying their synagogue’s banner.
"The whole congregation’s walking together today," Smith said, pointing to people in front and behind. "There are at least 100 of us."
Clad in blue T-shirts, scores of JUF volunteers spent the day guiding enthusiastic groups of participants. Steering traffic at the corner of Ravine Drive and Linden Avenue in Highland Park were Lisa and Javier Rubinstein of Northbrook and Gwen Heyman of Highland Park.
Lisa Rubenstein is on JUF’s board and has been volunteering at the event with her husband for 10 years.
"This is how we show our support for Israel and with our fellow Jews," she said.
Click the photo above to see a video and photo gallery from Israel Solidarity Day. Then click here to read about the elected officials that also attended the event.