“Ahmadinejad: Remember What Happened to Haman” was one of the many signs held aloft on Sunday afternoon, March 20th, as close to 500 Jews gathered on Purim day for a public reading of Megillat Esther (the Book of Esther) that was held outside the Iranian mission to the United Nations on Manhattan’s east side. Organized by Americans For A Safe Israel (AFSI), Amcha – the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, Z Street and the Jewish Political Education Council, the reading was held as a symbolic representation of the indefatigable nature of the Jewish people and G-d’s intervention in their survival throughout the millenium.
“Purim is a day that we celebrate the survival of the Jewish people against evil rulers who sought our complete annihilation in the city of Shushan in Persia. In every generation the names of our oppressors and their countries of origin may change, but they are driven by one common denominator and that is visceral hatred of the Jew,” intoned Larry Domnitch, a freelance writer and designated reader of the megillah.
“Today we will read about the plans for mass extermination of the Jewish people designed by the prototypes of evil, namely Achashveirosh and Haman. We are gathered here today to remind the modern day Haman who resides in Iran named Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that we will not be silent while he creates his plans to ‘wipe Israel off the map.’ As in the days of Queen Esther, we will raise our voices to G-d, seeking His divine intervention and we will boldly speak out against a regime that is not only a nemesis to Israel, but to the entire free world,” he added.
Glenn Richter, long-time Jewish activist and former leader of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, introduced the leaders of the sponsoring organizations as the crowd held specially made Purim groggers (noisemakers) with the face of Ahmadinejad and a red line cancelling it out, along with other signs and Israeli flags. “The Obama administration is willfully deluding itself by touting the line that the source of all the problems in the Middle East is due to Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria,” he declared. ”It is clear that the source of anti-Western and anti-Israel terrorism today emanates from Iran; the very same government that sought to destroy us centuries ago,” he added.
During the megillah reading, the sounds of acrimony could be heard from a small contingent of Neturei Karta counter-protestors who chanted, “Down, Down, the State of Israel,” and held signs lambasting Zionism as antithetical to against Judaism. On each occasion that the name of Haman was read aloud, the noise generated by the plethora of groggers and loud boos by those gathered to hear the megillah drowned out the hateful rhetoric of the counter-protestors.
Subsequent to the megillah reading, Helen Freedman of the Americans For A Safe Israel said, “We are putting the government of Iran on notice and we are here today to tell Ahmadinejad and other sponsors of terrorism against Israel and the Western world, that your fate is sealed. Learn from history. When you lift your hand against the Jewish nation, you will succumb to defeat, just as Haman did in Persia and all the others after him.”
Sending a strong message to President Obama, Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale declared, “When you weaken Israel, you weaken the United States. When the United States ambassador to the United Nations states that Jewish settlements are illegal, you create an atmosphere in which the gruesome murders of five members of the Fogel family in Itamar can take place,” he intoned.
Udi Fogel, 37, his wife Ruth, 36 and three of their children, Yoav age 11, Elad, 4, and a three-month-old daughter named Hadas were murdered in cold-blood in the Israeli settlement of Itamar on Friday evening, March 11th, by Palestinian terrorists connected to Fatah.
Tears filled the eyes of those gathered as Rabbi Weiss delivered an impassioned and emotionally charged address when he listed the names of each member of the Fogel family and asked, “What kind of beasts could have carried out this heinous act of murder?”
Speaking of the innocence and love of 11-year-old Yoav Fogel, ZTK”L, Rabbi Weiss read the words that hung over Yoav’s bed: “May it be Your will, Lord God and God of our forefathers, that I love every one of Israel as myself, and to graciously perform the positive commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself. May it also be Your will, Lord God and God of my forefathers, that you cause the hearts of my friends and neighbors to love me fervently, and that I be accepted and desirable to everyone, and that I be loving and pleasant, and that I be gracious and merciful in the eyes of all who see me.”
“Our message to the remaining members of the Fogel family and to all our brothers and sisters living in Israel is the same message declared by Queen Esther who said, ‘gather all of the Jews,’ all decent people and cry out, ‘We stand with you!’ He reiterated the words of devotion uttered by 12-year-old Tamar Fogel, who said after the funerals of her parents and siblings: “Now, I will be the mother” and called upon all of the entire Jewish nation to become active participants in raising this family and all others who are suffering.
“Just as we read in Megillat Esther, we have the power to turn this tragedy in Itamar around,” said Rabbi Weiss. He spoke of a millionaire who told the Fogel family, “get used to having me around” as he made a committment to stock their pantry every Sabbath until the youngest child turns 18. Rabbi Weiss also spoke of those who organized the delivery of 108 shalach manos (food packages) to the families of Itamar and of his daughter’s wishes to hold his granddaugher’s Bat Mitzvah in Itamar as a sign of love and solidarity.
“The message of the ‘brit,’ the covenant between the Jewish people and G-d, is a simple one, and that is, don’t give up,” said Rabbi Weiss as he led those gathered in rousing chants of “Am Yisroel Chai” (the people of Israel live). Indeed they do.