By Trudy Stern, Esq.
For three decades, NORPAC has been advocating for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship by meeting with Members of Congress and bringing before them the most pressing matters. For all my years meeting with legislators, never did I imagine these relationships would be used for such a moment as it did on November 14, to be able to seek out our friends on the Hill to ask them for their support following Hamas’ brutal massacre and capture of innocent civilians in Israel.
Stanley and I were attending the November 14 rally, as were hundreds of thousands of other pro-Israel voices that day. We stood by the stage as our federal legislators took to the podium to reaffirm their commitment to supporting Israel in its war against Hamas. Members such as Ritchie Torres and Don Bacon noticed us as they were going to speak and assured us of their commitment to the cause. There was an unbelievable air of unity and love in the enormous crowd, and from Members of Congress.
As we were informally speaking with these members, a few people in the crowd noticed us and came over. They were wearing shirts with pictures of Israeli hostages, and they asked us if we were going to meet with Congressional offices. As we spoke with them, we found out that they were the families of hostages taken on October 7 by Hamas. They were there to do absolutely anything in their power to make their voices heard so that their loved ones could be returned home safely.
Stanley and I welcomed them to join us as we went to meet in the Senate after the rally. It was a unique opportunity to connect these loving souls to pour out their hearts to our national leadership.
After making the offer, we realized that we would have to ask the permission of our host, Senator Gillibrand, to add additional members to our delegation. To our tremendous gratitude, the Senator’s office immediately answered “yes” to our request. Now a delegation of eight members, we made our way over to the Russell Senate Office building where we were directed to a conference room in Senator Gillibrand’s office.
Senator Gillibrand met with us immediately upon arrival and we got to discussing the pressing issues we originally came for—including security aid to Israel, supporting efforts against Hamas, and rescuing the hostages.
Upon hearing about the others who joined us, the Senator asked the family members of the hostages to share their stories. As they spoke with her and shared their heartfelt stories of loved ones now captured, we could see tears running down Senator Gillibrand’s face as she took in the sadness and horror that these people felt. One of the members of our group was 34 weeks pregnant, and the Senator wished her to take care at this very delicate time.
When the families finished their stories, the room felt emotional all around. Senator Gillibrand addressed us and assured the family members that she will not forget them and their loved ones. From now until they are returned safely, the Senator said she would make it her business to tell their stories each week on the Senate floor. It was a tremendous comfort to these family members to know she would be repeating it in such an important place.
As we ended the meeting, Senator Gillibrand told us that she would continue her very ardent support for Israel in defeating Hamas. She proceeded to warmly embrace each of the hostage family members, saying reassuring words to each of them.
This was the most emotional meeting we had experienced in all this time advocating with Congress. To see that our leadership is listening to us, and that our loved ones and those who are lost or taken away will not be forgotten, brings us great hope for the future of U.S.-Israel relations and of America’s commitment to support efforts to rescue the hostages.