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Congregation Shomrei Torah

Statement from the Sonoma County Jewish Community Leadership regarding the War in  Israel  and Gaza

Dear Shomrei Torah Members and Friends,

In response to the war in Israel, Rabbis Irwin Keller, Shalom Bochner and I drafted a statement you will find below. We know the statement is not everything any one of us might want to say, but we hope it represents a broad consensus of what we can say together as a Jewish community right now.

With a broken but resolute heart,

Rabbi George

November 8, 2023

Statement from the Sonoma County Jewish Community Leadership regarding the War in Israel and Gaza

We write this letter as rabbis and leaders of congregations and organizations serving the Jewish community of Sonoma County. We are outraged by the massacre perpetrated by Hamas on October 7, and by the fact that they continue to hold more than 200 hostages from more than 30 countries. Our hearts are filled with grief, sadness and deep concern as we all grieve the loss of lives of so many Israelis and Palestinians. At this time of war and conflict, we stand united with each other as we work, pray and hope for a lasting peace and for justice for all in the region.

To achieve this peace, we call on Hamas to immediately return all of the hostages to their homes. We urge the US administration to work with the Israeli government to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza in every possible manner, and for continued humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinian population in Gaza. As we ask for restraint, we acknowledge that too many lives have already been lost on both sides. Let peaceful coexistence be the goal for all of the leaders of the nations and peoples who live in the Middle East.

It is clear that the status quo in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unjust and untenable. This is time for creativity and vigor to find a solution that takes into account the security needs of Israel and Palestinians. We call on all the relevant governments, and our own, to rapidly move to the implementation of a comprehensive negotiated two state solution. 

Perhaps most importantly, we call on peace-loving Jews and Palestinians, our Muslim and Christian neighbors, and people of faith and people of conscience, not to give up hope. May we all rededicate ourselves to bring more lovingkindness into the world, more dialogue, more compassion, and more human decency. May we all live to see the day when “they shall turn their swords into plows, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4) and “the cry ‘violence!’ will no more be heard in your land. . .” (Isaiah 60:18). May that day come soon, sooner than we think possible, and may it last.

Organizational Names for Identification Purposes Only

Rabbi George Gittleman
Congregation Shomrei Torah

Rabbi Shalom Bochner
B’nai Israel Jewish Center

Rabbi Irwin Keller
Congregation Ner Shalom

Rabbi Mordecai Miller
Congregation Beth Ami

Rabbi Zelig Golden
Wilderness Torah

Eli Weinzveg
President, Congregation Shomrei Torah

Amy Gray
President, Congregation Ner Shalom

Barbara McGee
President, Congregation Beth Ami

Katie Evenbeck
Executive Director, Congregation
Shomrei Torah
Elaine Leeder
Chair, Tzedek Social Action,
Congregation Ner Shalom
Holocaust Story Project

Peter Krohn
Co-chair, Sonoma County Yom
HaShoah Planning Committee

Christyne Davidian
Co-President, Alliance for the Study of
the Holocaust and Genocide at Sonoma
State University

Yehoyada Mbangukira
Co-President, Alliance for the Study of
the Holocaust and Genocide at Sonoma
State University
Barbara Lesch McCaffry
Member, Sonoma County Yom
HaShoah Planning Committee
Dean, Congregation Ner Shalom
Lifelong Jewish Learning

Mia Zimman
Family Educator, Congregation Ner

Sandy Andresen
Program Director, Jewish Community
Center of Sonoma County Friendship

Melissa Sherman
Managing Director, Jewish Community
Center of Sonoma County

Beth Goodman
Board Member, Jewish Community
Center of Sonoma County

Deborah Burg-Schnirman
Vice President, Jewish Community
Center of Sonoma County

Ways to Respond to the War in Israel

World Union for Progressive Judaism


Jewish Community Relations Council




JCF - 2023 Israel Emergency Fund


Jewish Federations of North America


Magen David Adom


New Israel Fund


World Union for Progressive Judaism


Spiritual Wellness

Chaplain Bruce Feldstein, MD, BCC, Director of JFCS’ Jewish Chaplaincy Services, offers a Spiritual Fitness Toolkit for anyone seeking to increase their capacity for meaning, purpose, and connectedness. Download Chaplain Feldstein’s Spiritual Fitness Toolkit here.


Organizations providing aid to Israelis



Soroka Medical Center: Located Be’er Sheva, in southern Israel

Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization of America (matching donations)

Barzilai Hospital: Located in hard-hit Ashkelon, hospital was hit by rocket fire



American Friends of Magen David Adom: Israel’s national emergency medical service (matching donations)

United Hatzalah: Volunteer EMS service

ZAKA Search and Rescue: Disaster victim identification, among the first to see slaughtered civilians



Bayit Cham: Providing therapy for children in Gaza border-area communities

ERAN: Mental health crisis hotline

NATAL: The Israel Trauma and Resiliency Center

One Family Fund: Emergency grief and trauma counseling

The Sderot Foundation: Sderot is a Gaza border town



Bayit Brigade: Emergency support for lone soldiers without family in Israel

Belev Echad: Providing aid to wounded soldiers

Friends of the IDF: Providing support to soldiers, veterans and their families

The Giving Back Fund: Helping Israeli soldiers fly back to Israel

Latet: Providing front line soldiers with emergency aid kits



10 Ways to Have Conscientious Conversations on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Antisemitism Uncovered/Anti-Zionism
Think. Plan. Act. Tools for Dealing with Antisemitic and anti-Israel Incidents on Campus
Antisemitism Today 
Antisemitic Incidents: Being an Ally, Advocate and Activist 


Fighting Antisemitism

The JFCS Holocaust Center and our partners have developed a new Antisemitism Recognition and Response Guide to provide teachers and school administrators the tools they need to identify and address antisemitic incidents and behaviors.We encourage you to download and share this guide with your community. 


Prayers from the Community

My name is Mark McBride. I am the pastor of Encounter City Church here in Santa Rosa. Angelica kindly gave me your email. I just wanted to drop you a note to extend our prayers and support for you and your synagogue during this difficult time. I can't begin to imagine the challenges you are facing as Israel navigates these troubling times and as antisemitism seems to be a growing danger to the Jewish people in America and around the world. 

I simply wanted to reach out and let you know that myself, my family and our church have been and continue to pray for you and for Israel. I love the words of the Psalmist that declared, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May they be secure who love you. Peace be within your walls and security within your towers." If there is anything that I can ever do for you, please don't hesitate to reach out. 

Blessings, Pastor Mark McBride


Dear Jewish Neighbors- We are heartbroken over the horrendous massacres in the nation of Israel, and the waves of anti-Semitism breaking out across the world. These atrocities cannot go unseen. You may feel abandoned by gentiles in your communities right now, and, for that, we are also more deeply grieved than we can properly express. We are a group of Christians who have meditated deeply on the horrors of the Holocaust, and who wish to stand against anti-Semitism, especially in troubled times, in times of persecution. You have our support both flowing from our understanding of our theology and also from simple human decency. No strings attached. We are raising funds for those suffering from these heinous attacks, and have been doing our best to raise awareness that the Jewish people are historically persecuted, have been increasingly persecuted from many groups (including Christian groups) and that gentiles who wish to be on the right side of history need to rigorously prepare to stand up for our Jewish friends at all times. We offer our hands, such as they are, in friendship. Anything you need, please don’t hesitate to let us know. We will do our utmost to help, though we are still a small group. If you ever feel threatened or attacked or unsupported, we will always be honored to assist, and to stand beside you in fighting the evil of anti-Semitism. Am Yisrael Chai,

Your Friends at Jacob’s Refuge


Dear Rabbi George and all the members of your congregation, the Church of the Roses is praying for you all: for your safety, for good health, and peace and strength during this tumultuous time! We hope you are coping with the stress by tapping into God's peace trusting God is with us through it all. Please let us know how we can be more supportive in tangible ways. Our hearts go out to you and to all involved in the conflict in Israel.

Grace and peace, Rev Dr Cindy Alloway, on behalf of the Church of the Roses


We are a residential volunteer community of Tibetan Buddhist practitioners managing an educational nonprofit with the joint mission of environmental stewardship and the provision of affordable retreat facilities.

We are writing to express our community's support for your congregation at this time. We are horrified not only by the attack of October 7th, but also to see the increase in blatant and violent anti-Semitism around the world, and the ease with which this is becoming mainstream. Coming from a range of backgrounds ourselves, we are united in our belief that ignorance and hatred only lead to more suffering, and we try where we can to address the misinformation and prejudice that is feeding the present turmoil.

Our community prays for peace, well-being and freedom for all beings, and we are deeply pained by the suffering unfolding for so many in this war. At the same time, especially now, we are clear about the need to support the Jewish community specifically. And so we reach out to you to express our care, ongoing.

And while we know you have a beautiful space there in town, if your congregation at some point wishes to seek some respite in a peaceful, safe and private space about an hour from Santa Rosa – we are on 485 acres of hills and forest – please know we would be honored to welcome you. We understand that right now you may not have the time or space to respond.

We just wanted to let you know we are with you, and invite you to connect at any time in future. We stand with you in mourning those murdered, and offer sincerest prayers for the swift return of the hostages, and for the relief of all those suffering as a result of the attacks. May those who now have to fight always return safely to their loved ones, and may you all find comfort and strength in your spiritual community and your shared prayers.

With very best wishes, Kerstin Hall on behalf of Padmasambhava Peace Institute


The news of the Hamas attack on Israel’s citizens is horrifying.  Whether the motive was to provoke a more regional engagement of neighboring Arab countries or a singular act of aggression out of Gaza the magnitude of lives lost and injured thus far is alarming.

I and First Presbyterian will offer prayers as we gather for worship.  We will pray for the people of Israel, healing of both lands, and we will pray with and for your own communities in solidarity of our common faith and trust in God.  We pray for your leadership and the weight you carry.  May peace rule.

Your friend and colleague, Dale Flowers


Israel on Our Minds - Reflection and Action

Dear Shomrei Torah Family & Friends,

This has been one of the most devastating weeks for the Jewish people in my memory. News of the atrocities committed by Hamas continue to come to light and Israel’s aerial attacks on Gaza intensify. Like many of you, Laura and I are sick with grief and worry about what comes next. It’s hard to think or concentrate. I’m struggling to limit my news consumptions knowing well the deleterious effects of secondary trauma. The waiting reminds me of the fires; worry about everyone’s safety, wondering if and when the winds will turn, our house will be spared, the smoke will clear. The feeling of helplessness. The whole mess is triggering.

And yet, there are things we can do to help the Israeli branch of the Jewish people as well as ourselves. Our website now has a curated list of organizations aiding Israel in need of funds as well as links to other resources including opportunities for public advocacy in the Bay Area. Within your comfort level, I also suggest monitoring print and online media, including local papers, with an eye towards responding to the Israel bashing that has already begun.

We help ourselves by coming together as a community, whether it be at the Prayer Vigil we held last Tuesday night, regular Shabbat Services, or any other program or gathering we offer. When we come together, we hold each other up and remind ourselves that we are not alone.

I also want you to know that Congressman Mike Thompson called me yesterday to let me know that he is there for us and advocating for Israel in Washington. Police Chief John Cregan of the Santa Rosa Police Department is also in regular communication and his officers are increasing their patrols in our area.

Finally, I suggest intensifying your Jewish practice. Light Shabbat candles, come to Torah Study, join us for Jewish Mindfulness Meditation, or consider any number of other ways you can feed your neshamah, your soul. We are a strong and resilient people and part of that grit comes from the Practices and Traditions of our ancestors which we recharge through our personal engagement!

Sending y’all love and strength…

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi George


Poem by Steve Villano

I Stand With Humanity.

Not jingoistic vanity.

I stand with self-determination,

Not a flag, nor song, nor any nation.


I stand with dignity, life and love,

Not some messianic fiction of superiority,

Obtained from above.


I stand with equality,

Either real or aspirational;

With the value of each life,

Being, by existence, inspirational.


I stand with Rabbi Hillel,

Who knew well, that, to be human,

When others were not,

Would point the way through hell.


I stand with the souls of Babi Yar,

Bucha, Hiroshima & Dachau;

And all the hostages of terror—

Jews, Ukrainians, and One Million

Children of Gaza, pleading,

“Where is humanity, if not now?”


I stand with lovers and mothers

Crushed by the death of babies, and others,

Who could not escape the wickedness of hate,

Nor be rescued by the safe room of their love.


I ask to be heard in the Shema,

Thinking always of Babi Yar, Babi Yar,

Never, never, very far;

Buried by the same earth

Which gives each of us birth.


I stand against terror and slaughter

Of your son, my daughter;

And of intentional starvation

Or any crime against the innocents of any nation

Born to a land they cannot leave,

In a world unable to grieve

The sheer magnitude of such a loss of life,

Or, of our own consciences.


I stand with the belief

That I am no different than you,

Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jew,

And that shrapnel screaming down

From any sky, scalding flesh, gouging eyes,

Turns any prayers for one side, into lies.


I stand with those who are different,

And those who are despised;

I stand with the outcast,

And others vilified, as somehow, less than human—

As if animals would ever slaughter their own,

As maniacally, methodically as we do.


I stand with other humans,

Regardless of their faith,

Or color, or gender,

Or country of their birth.


I Stand For Humanity,

And a return to sanity,

Before a mass grave for

The one million children of Palestine,

Matches the memorial of yours, and mine,

With one million twinkling lights at Yad Vashem,

Reminding us of the ghastly eternal price of,

Us vs. them.


A Prayer for Israel by Joanne Fink

We pray for Israel and the safety and security of its citizens.
Bless and bolster those who defend
their land,
their lives
their loved ones.

We pray for the IDF and all who have been called to battle.
Bless those protecting their homeland
with strength and skill
courage and clarity
dedication and daring.

We pray for the bereaved, and for the families anxiously awaiting word.
Bless those whose loved ones have been injured, captured, or killed
with hope and healing,
comfort and connection,
and the knowledge that
they are not alone.

We pray for the Jewish community, connected by ancestry and history.
Bless us with the ability to work together
to provide sustenance and support
and to end the era of growing antisemitism.

We pray for our world leaders determining history.
Bless them with the desire, wisdom, and ability
to act decisively for the greatest good
and to bring a swift end to this unwelcomed war.

May the words of Isaiah 2:4:
“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation;
neither shall they learn war anymore”
become true in our day—in this very hour.

Source of Goodness, shine Your healing light on us!
Bless us, and all those in Israel we hold in our hearts.
Shelter us,
shield us,
show us the path to peace.


By Kayla Cutler

My Jewish brothers and sisters all over the world. This is a hard time. This is the time we stand together. No matter what I am proud to be Jewish. It makes me sad that History is almost being repeated in some ways. There hasn't Been this much hate for Jewish people since the holocaust. Hamas has made the world a hateful place for Jews and it's scary but we have to remember that we are strong no matter what. Standing by each other as Jewish people when this first started happening I thought I should hide that I was Jewish then I thought no that's what they want they want me to hide they want me to be frightened therefore I will not I'm proud to be Jewish my Jewish brothers and sisters I stand hand in hand side by side and say that I am proud to be Jewish



We are heartbroken by the news of the terrorist attacks that are taking place in Israel. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families who have suffered unimaginable loss and pain. Acts of violence and terrorism have no place in our world, and we unequivocally condemn them.

As a congregation that values peace, unity, and compassion, we stand in solidarity with the people of Israel during this difficult time. We pray for the healing of those injured and for strength and comfort for the bereaved families. We also express our unwavering support for the efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in the region.

In moments like these, it is essential that we come together as a community to support one another and reaffirm our commitment to the principles of peace, justice, and tolerance. Let us continue to pray for a world where such tragic events become a thing of the past, and where all people can live in safety and security. We would also like you to know that while things are tenuous abroad, we have been in touch with local Law Enforcement and are heightening our efforts to keep us safe and secure on our campus.

Please join me in sending our thoughts, prayers, and love to the people of Israel during this challenging time. Together, as a congregation, we can make a difference and be a beacon of hope for a better, more peaceful world.

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyar 5784