HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — An attack in Israel by the terrorist group “Hamas” sent shockwaves across the world Saturday. Following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s formal declaration of war, the Jewish community in central Virginia is uniting in solidarity.
On Monday, Oct. 9, just days after the attack, the flag of Israel rested at half-staff next to Virginia’s state flag outside the Weinstein Jewish Community Center in Henrico’s West End. Both flags flew at half staff to honor the lives lost in Israel over the last few days.
On the morning of Saturday, Oct. 7, as people geared up for Simchat Torah — a time of celebration — Israel, with a population just below 10 million, was attacked by Hamas. Neyanyahu formally declared war against the group the next day.
8News spoke with Daniel Staffenberg, the CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, who became teary-eyed as he discussed the pain his community has been forced to endure.
“There is a Jewish tradition that we bury our dead within 24 to 48 hours of them passing,” Staffenberg said. “Today, there will be 800 or 900 funerals in a small country.”
Staffenberg remarked on how one of the community’s most joyous times of the year turned into a restless and emotionally traumatizing period both locally and for those abroad.
“The single most horrific terror attack that Israel has ever seen,” Staffenberg said.
While Staffenberg lives all the way in Virginia, he said he has felt the devastation in full effect.
“Communication with our friends in Israel has been devastating,” Staffenberg said.
He noted how, tragically, Jewish communities across the globe are used to having innocent people targeted.
“It became very clear that this was different,” the leader commented.
He told 8News that every time he makes a phone call, he hears of another person dead or missing.
“These are not soldiers that have been taken,” Staffenberg said. “These are children. Three, four, five-year-olds taken as hostages.”
Staffenberg’s team joined forces with local synagogues and organizations to hold a gathering of solidarity, love and support.
“We don’t do anything alone,” Staffenberg said. “We pray together. We celebrate together. It is part of who we are.”
Although the Prime Minister predicted a “long and difficult” war ahead, local leaders hope Monday’s gathering will help begin the process of healing. Whether in the form of kind words, thoughts, prayers or donation; community leaders told 8News that the local Jewish community is grateful for the support people across central Virginia have shown so far.