‘Everyone is in shock’: Brooklynites come together after violent attacks in Israel

people with israel flag at rally
Locals rallied in support of Israel at an Oct. 9 rally in Grand Army Plaza, days after Hamas launched a surprise attack.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Brooklynites are coming together to support each other in the wake of violent terrorist attacks in Israel over the weekend.

Militants from Hamas, the political and military group that controls the barricaded Gaza Strip on Israel’s southern coast, invaded Israeli towns and fired rockets at cities as far as Tel Aviv on Saturday. Hamas fighters attacked and killed hundreds of Israeli civilians and soldiers, and has reportedly taken as many as 150 Israelis as hostages. 

The situation hit close to home for many in New York City, which is home to the largest Jewish population in the world outside of Israel. About half of the city’s Jewish population live in Brooklyn. 

On Oct. 9, two days after the attack began, Chabad-Lubavitch — a global Orthodox Jewish organization headquartered in Brooklyn – held a “Prayer for Israel” rally on Eastern Parkway.

Roughly 2,500 Brooklynites gathered at the vigil to pray for Israel and the victims of the attack. 

woman at israel prayer vigil eastern parkway
A woman was stricken with grief during a prayer vigil on Eastern Parkway. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“Everyone is in shock and carrying grief over these tragic events,” a Chabad spokesperson said at the vigil. “It is utter horror, we need to come together and performing acts of kindness. When one of us hurts we all hurt.” 

The vigil also promoted the use of mitzvahs, or good deeds, as a means of protection. 

Coney Island residents remembered victims of the attacks at an Israel Solidarity Rally hosted by Council Member Ari Kagan on Oct. 8. 

“We stand together with Israel in condemning bloody terror attacks by Hamas against innocent civilians and mourn victims of terror,” Kagan said in a statement. “I am proud of my southern Brooklyn neighbors for their steadfast support for Israel. As a son of Holocaust survivors, I can’t be silent when terrorists want to eradicate the only Jewish state.”

According to Kagan, there were over 100 attendees on Sunday including Assembly Member Alec Brook-Krasny, Democratic District Leader Dionne-Brown and Olga Fiore from the office of Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton.

pols at israel rally
Southern Brooklyn politicians voiced their support for Israel at an Oct. 8 rally at Coney Island’s Warbasse Houses. Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

The pols condemned Saturday’s attacks and expressed their support for Israel. 

That evening, members of the organizations Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and If Not Now gathered for an “alternative Simchat Torah” to process and grieve the losses of both Israeli and Palestinian lives outside the Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch at Grand Army Plaza. 

Roughly 900 Israelis and 830 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, according to ABC News, with roughly 2,600 Israelis and 4,250 Palestinians injured. 

At least 11 Americans were killed in the attacks, and officials said it is “likely” that some were taken hostage. A number of U.S. citizens are in Israel, and are searching for a way out. Among them was U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan and was in Israel for a family event when the attacks began. Goldman and his family safely evacuated on Sunday. 

Council Member Lincoln Restler urged Brooklynites in Israel, or those with loved ones in the country, to contact the U.S. State Department, and said constituents could email his office so he could pass their information on to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez for assistance.

On Sunday evening, Restler shared that he attended a service at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue.

“Special to be together this evening with fellow congregants, neighbors, and interfaith leaders at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue,” he said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Comfort and solace in being in community as neighbors still try to figure out if family members and friends are okay.”

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who represents Brooklyn in Congress, condemned the attack and urged the U.S. government to stand strongly with Israel.

“We will strongly support Israel’s right to defend herself from this despicable attack that targeted civilians, including Israeli children, with rockets, gunfire, and violent kidnappings,” Jeffries said in a statement. “The Congress must stand with Israel until the invasion by Hamas has been crushed and security in Southern Israel and throughout the permanently restored.”

Grand Army Plaza Israel rally
Thousands of people denounced the attacks and prayed for peace at Grand Army Plaza.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Council Member Chi Ossé, who represents parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, issued a lengthy statement on the situation on Oct. 9, after he said he was moved to comment since he represents significant Muslim and Jewish populations. 

Ossé condemned Hamas’ attack, calling it “brutal and inexcusable,” and said the Israeli military’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza are “the primary root of the violence.”

“The Palestinian movement for national liberation is legitimate,” the council member said. “It is a movement I support and endorse … Also, Hamas decades ago chose terrorism and power over Palestinian life and freedom. Those who support and celebrate them are, at best, dangerously misguided.”