By Bryan Boggiano
More than 100 people gathered on Oct. 20 to show their support to Israel and the Israeli people following Hamas’s attacks on the country, which started on Oct. 7.
Dr. Sharry Kimmel organized the event in her neighborhood, encompassing Cascata, Town Parc, and MiraLago. Neighbors gathered at the Cascata Zen Garden, writing letters to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and coming together to support one another.
Even though she serves as a homeowner’s association president, the gathering was not an HOA event.
Kimmel said she usually lights candles and says prayers every Friday for Shabbat in her own home. But on Oct. 20, she decided to hold Shabbat and pray with the entire community.
“The entire community here has been struggling with emotions of grief, empathy, concern, and fear regarding the horrors going on in Israel and the surrounding areas,” Kimmel said. “Watching the the violence and destruction on the news gives cause for tremendous concern, not only for the State of Israel and the Jewish people, but for all people in the region and even the world.”
Kimmel said she knew she had to do something after feeling helpless for days. She began circulating fliers in her community and spreading the word out. She contacted the Broward Sheriff’s Office, who agreed to provide security.
The morning of the gathering, she woke up at six a.m. and baked ten challah breads from scratch. Kimmel also purchased Israeli flags and pins and distributed them. They poured 75 cups of Kosher Kadem Grape Juice to symbolize wine and said the Kiddush, a prayer.
There were tables with Shabbat candles, prayer books, a Challah, and a Shabbat wine goblet. There was also an empty vase to symbolize the emptiness families in Israel are experiencing. A Yeirtzeit, or in-memory candle, was also featured.
The neighborhood gathering also included prayers led by Rabbi Melissa Stollman, who played Israeli and Hebrew songs on a guitar. Homeowner Alex Sajovits also led prayers. Kimmel made a Spotify playlist of music about peace and brought a giant speaker.
Neighbors passed LED votive candles around to spread light in the world, Kimmel said.
“There was love and sadness and comfort and solidarity in the air, and we all felt a sense of togetherness and safety [thanks to Parkland BSO] and unity,” Kimmel said.
Attendees also had the opportunity to send letters of support to the IDF, and Kimmel estimates they sent about 40. She said she knows a former Weston rabbi, Rabbi Sam Keiffer, and his wife, Melinda Keiffer, who currently live in Jerusalem, who would help distribute them.
“The soldiers are risking their lives not only to protect Israel and the surrounding areas, but they are Freedom Fighters of Jewish people all over the world because Israel must survive for Jews to be safe anywhere,” she said.
Kimmel said it was amazing to see neighbors set aside their differences and people of all ages, cultures, races, and religions and unite behind a common cause, express themselves, pray for peace, and heal together.
She said, “I think the healing and sense of solidarity and community was definitely needed.”
- A University of Florida journalism graduate, Bryan plans to pursue geosciences at Florida International University for his master's. He has a strong interest in weather, entertainment, and journalism.
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