An unforgettable rally for Israel

The following column originally appeared in the ABC (Anoka Blaine Coon Raids), SunThisWeek, Union Times,   Monticello Times  and other APG of East Central Minnesota newspapers during December, 2023.

An unforgettable rally for Israel

What started for many Minnesotans with anxiety and uncertainty about 4 a.m. on Nov. 14 ended with joy and pride.

More than 200 Minnesotans, many of them parents and youngsters, got up very early to attend a rally for Israel in Washington, D.C., on that day.

We went to support the existence of Israel and to promote tolerance among people of different religions and cultures.

Among the almost 300,000 people participating


Among the posters people held during the rally

What struck me, in part, was the positive tone of the day and the considerable value of young people and adults coming together for a common cause. Press reports estimated that nearly 300,000 people participated. WCCO TV covered the rally.

Many parents, including Robyn Schein, of St. Louis Park, brought their youngsters. She believes: “It’s important to model your values in action for your kids. This was a great opportunity to do that. It’s really hard to parent Jewish kids in this era of social media – there’s so much hatred and misinformation. There are not clear ways to protect them, so they’re taking on a lot. As a result of today, I don’t think they feel so isolated.”

Ilan Schein, 15, told me: “I felt a lot of pride as a Jew. I was happy to see how many Jews showed up. It was good to see people I knew there and to see my friends from around the country.”

Talia Schein, 13, said, “It felt good to see how many people showed up and really cared about what is happening in Israel.”

Marco Melendez, 16, and his mother, Shana Melendez, of Minnetonka, also attended. Marco has heard about Jewish students being bullied at some schools.

“I wanted to be in a place where Jews could share their opinions without being attacked,” he said.

Rebecca Badzin, 17, a Hopkins High School junior, participated. She has an aunt, uncle and four cousins in Tel Aviv, Israel, and a brother in Jerusalem.

She explained she “was looking forward to being part of something that would be done peacefully and in a respectful way. We were here to support each other, brothers and sisters in Israel.”

She continued: “I was astonished at how well it went and how it made me feel. There were Christians, Democrats and Republicans. It was unique. It felt so good to be in such a positive, supportive environment. After being at the march, I feel I can be more confident responding to antisemitic comments at school.”

Jessi Kingston, of Edina, has been active for many years in a variety of community improvement efforts.

Jessi found it to be “a powerful, supportive, emotional day. You really had a sense of community. We have the Minnesota community. This was on a much larger scale. I’m very glad that I came.”

Jerry Ribnick, a 38-year resident of St. Louis Park, explained: “I feel there’s very little we can do to support Israel, but this is one of the things we can do. It’s important to show up. I thought it was outstanding. There were many more people than we anticipated. It was peaceful and respectful.”

Shai Avny works for the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and was one of the people organizing Minnesotans’ participation. His entire family – parents, siblings, and their families – live in Israel.

He explained: “The D.C. rally was meaningful in so many ways for me. It was great being with over 200 people from my community in Minnesota and seeing the support for Israel. It was the first time that I was outside of Israel and felt I was not in a small Jewish community. I felt that I was part of a very big Jewish community!”


 JoAnn & Joe Nathan

James Cohen, CEO of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, spoke for many: “Being with so many supporters of Israel in an atmosphere of love and peace is something I will never forget.”

I agree.

Joe Nathan, Ph.D., has been a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president. He co-directs the Center for School Change. Email him at