Coordinated through Jewish Federations of North America, Pittsburgh's Israel Emergency Relief Fund is allocated quickly where it is needed most.
Your voice makes all the difference in the world.
Write to your elected officials who have supported Israel to thank them and urge them to keep supporting in the days ahead.
Who Are My Elected Officials?
You can find the name and contact information for the people you represent you on the federal, state and local levels at usa.gov/elected-officials.
What Should I Say?
Or copy the following text to add your own words.
Dear (Politician Name here),
As a member of the Pittsburgh Jewish community, I am writing to ask you to continue to support of the State of Israel and use your leadership role towards aiding in the immediate release of 242 people who are being held hostage by Hamas, some of whom are American citizens. While these hostages are being held and Hamas continues to inflict terror in Israel and its people, a ceasefire cannot be possible.
We appreciate your support thus far and implore you to continue to do everything in your power to continue supporting the vulnerable populations in the region.
Pittsburgh Jewish community member, (Your Name)
Know What to Answer
Start With Areyvut (accountability or responsibility)
A guiding principle in Jewish thought is the idea that all Jews are responsible for one another. As a people, we must first and foremost support Jews in their time of need. This is a moment of existential threat to the State of Israel and all the residents of the only democracy in the Middle East. The images of grandmothers, children and young women being dragged into Gaza as hostages (and many other horrifying images) prove that Israel urgently needs the full support of its global family and friends.
Speak With Moral Clarity
Be clear when speaking with others that there is no moral equivalency between Hamas and Israel. Too many media commentators draw a disturbing parallel between Israel and Hamas, implying that they are morally equivalent and equally to blame for the violence. Let’s make no mistake about it. Hamas is a terrorist group (officially designated this way by the U.S., European Union, Israel, Canada, Japan and others) that is attacking and firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli citizens. Israel is a sovereign country that is defending its citizens through targeted airstrikes aimed at terrorist leaders or military operations.
Use Social Media Responsibly
Do not get into a fight on social media if you don’t know the person or if you don’t know the facts of the story. Take the conversation offline whenever possible and try not to respond in the heat of the moment. Ultimately, use your channel to educate those around you. Additionally, be conscious of the toll this can have on your mental health. A lot of footage being shared is graphic and should be avoided. Know when it's time to take a break.
Common, Inaccurate Narratives and How to Respond
- No, Hamas is an Iran-backed terrorist organization designated as such by the United States and the European Union. Founded in 1987, Hamas’s charter calls for the destruction of Israel.
- While some reports have speculated that Iran was involved in the planning and implementation of the attack, neither the Israeli nor U.S. governments have confirmed Iran’s role at this time. In a tweet sharing a video of Israelis running for their lives, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for “the Zionist regime” to be “eradicated.”
- No. Hamas is a genocidal, radical, Islamic terrorist organization that is committed to the annihilation of the state of Israel and the Jewish people.
- They use their people as human shields - and their people are the ones who thus suffer the most. Since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007 rather than use the hundreds of millions of dollars of aid given to build a vibrant Palestinian community, Hamas has used the money to build terror tunnels, to stockpile illegal munitions, and to provoke the Israeli army.
- Hamas has been proven to store weapons in mosques, hospitals, schools, and UN facilities. The organization has deliberately impeded progress towards establishing a two-state solution.
- Massacres and hostage-taking aren’t humanitarian acts of service. They are war crimes.
- As President Joe Biden said: “Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian’s people’s right to dignity and self-determination. Its stated purpose is the annihilation of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
- Victim-blaming is never justified. Hamas explicitly targets innocent civilians and is proud of its brutality - the rape, murder, and kidnapping of women, children and the elderly - and brazenly puts these images on social media to create fear.
- Hamas intentionally targeted civilians. In one case, a Hamas terrorist live-streamed the murder of a grandmother and posted it on her Facebook account.
- These actions are illegal under every international law of war.
- Israel has made numerous attempts to peacefully end the conflict over many decades and Palestinian leadership has continued to rebuke such offers, instead opting for an escalation of hostility towards Israel and Israelis.
- Hamas has worked to derail peace efforts through terrorism by opposing any steps that would allow Israel to exist in any form.
- Israel has historically and regularly supplied Gaza with food, water, and electricity. In 2021, Israel sent approximately 104,000 truckloads of supplies–goods, food, and medical equipment–through the Kerem Shalom border crossing in Gaza, which was destroyed during the attack.
- About 20% of Israel’s population identify as Arab or Palestinian Israelis. They are entitled to the same rights to security and protection from terror as Jewish citizens of Israel.
- False moral equivalency between Hamas terrorists and the Israeli Defense Forces is dangerous and disempowers the Jewish state from protecting its citizens, who are both Jewish and non-Jewish. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which predates the 1948 War of Independence, is a dispute that is about narrative as much as it is about the territory itself.
- Since the creation of the State of Israel, Israel has faced non-stop existential threats from surrounding countries and therefore has created the defense and deterrence capabilities necessary to defend her citizens. It has also proven, in the cases of Egypt and Jordan, that it is willing and able to create a peaceful resolution - including giving up land - in exchange for the end of hostilities.
- There has never been a moment of peace with Hamas. Furthermore, there are established systems and processes to resolve political and territorial disputes, which are not unique to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
- Hamas has been in control of Gaza since Israel withdrew all civilian and military presence from Gaza in 2005 in the hopes of establishing peace with a Palestinian controlled territory. In exchange for disengaging from Gaza, militant factions, many of which are funded as Iran’s terror proxies with the sole mission to destroy Israel, have continually terrorized Israeli communities.
- Hamas is responsible for the lack of investment in civilian infrastructure and has failed to build a better life for their people.
- Israel has established the necessary security infrastructure to prevent the illegal smuggling of weapons into and out of Gaza. Despite its best efforts, however, terrorists continue to hide weapons in humanitarian aid packages and to use building materials intended for hospitals and schools to build miles of subterranean terror tunnels into Israeli neighborhoods.
- Hamas and other terrorist leadership in Gaza cynically uses their own populations as human shields. The loss of every innocent life is tragic. The biggest impact of the ongoing conflict is the general Palestinian population living under the authoritarian rule of Hamas.
- Israel has taken great lengths to prevent innocent casualties, including canceling critical missions to prevent terror attacks, if there is intelligence that innocent people are in harm's way.
- Hamas and other terror groups store their weapons and command centers in Mosques, schools, hospitals, and UN buildings using their own civilians as human shields.
- In the days and weeks following the horrendous massacre committed on October 7, 2023, there will be much analysis to understand how such atrocities took place. In the meantime, Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces must do what is necessary to protect Israeli citizens and secure the Israeli borders.
- Until now, the strategy of deterrence rested on the assumption that Hamas was not interested in a full-scale war, nor was it capable of it. Last weekend’s events show that Hamas and its determination to humiliate, dehumanize, and destroy Israel requires the fullest response possible.
- Since 2005 alone more than 20,000 rockets have been fired into Israel. It has taken soldiers and civilians hostage, perpetrated violence across the border, and illegally smuggled weapons in and out of Gaza. Hamas has continually said that it has no interest in a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
- Israel has demonstrated through peace agreements, disengagement, shared security infrastructure (e.g. helping Egypt rid the Sinai of ISIS) and other agreements (e.g. water and electricity agreements with Jordan) that they will work with anyone in the region who will work with them.
- Under international law, it is illegal to intentionally target civilians with military force. However, international law recognizes that military actions directed against legitimate targets of strategic value sometimes result in civilian casualties. The doctrine of proportionality outlines the standard armed forces must consider when weighing military action.
- The doctrine of proportionality dictates that military action cannot be “excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.” Stated simply, this means that the balancing test to determine whether military action is “proportionate” is done in relation to the threat being faced. In this situation, it means Israel must respond to the threat of Hamas’ continued rule in Gaza, which is an existential one for the safety and security of its civilians, Jewish and Arab alike.
Making the Case for Israel
Gefsky Community Scholar Rabbi Danny Schiff offers tools for how to reply to Israel’s critics in this time of war. Watch this webinar recording aimed at answering the central questions about the accusations that are now being made against the world’s only Jewish state.
Watch on Zoom →
Israel: What to Say Now
Worried about upcoming conversations with relatives and friends? Use Rabbi Schiff's guide, including challenges to the notion that Israel is "colonialist," replies to the claim that Israel is an "apartheid state," refutations to allegations that Israel is committing genocide, reasons why so many civilians are dying in Gaza, challenges to calls for a long-term ceasefire and asymmetries between Israel and Hamas.
Messages of Support
The following was recorded in solidarity with the Pittsburgh Jewish community for inclusion at the Vigil for Israel held October 19, 2023. On behalf of Jewish Pittsburgh, we thank Senator John Fetterman, Governor Josh Shapiro and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald for their unwavering support of Israel.