Rabbi Eli Weinstock, President of the New York Board of Rabbis and Rabbi of the Jewish Center of Atlantic Beach, spoke to Israel National News - Arutz Sheva, on his visit to Israel as part of the Israel Heritage Foundation’s delegation and this is not the first time he is here since October 7th.

Rabbi Weinstock states that, “It's important to come to Israel on all fronts. This is my fourth trip here since October 7th. I came in late October then again in November and December and at the end of December. Now again for the fourth time. Like many Jews, hopefully like all Jews should, I love Israel, I love the Jewish people. When things broke out here, I wanted to be here, to be here with my family, brothers and sisters of Israel, plus a daughter who lives in Israel, a son studying in Israel, and not everyone can come, not everyone can jump on a plane. At the same time, being here is something very special. You want that proximity with your people. We know that throughout the world people are sending and giving and supporting and praying, but it doesn't compare to be here, and I encourage all those who can, to come and I want to live by example.”

In comparison to the situation Israel, Rabbi Weinstock talks about the challenging situation in the US, especially on university campuses, “Challenging is an understatement. Personally, I'm more of an optimist and I feel it's a lot more noise and it's not as harmful, but it could be harmful. Everyone is experiencing it. It's the people on the ground and on the campuses who experience most, but it is heartwarming that the concern for us in America, the antisemitism that's experienced there. Israelis want to know how we feel, and it is very unique. It's not only my experience, but others I've spoken with. Sometimes we feel more at home here when visiting, maybe even safer here, even if we've had to run to a shelter during a rocket alert which happened on one of my previous trips.”

Rabbi Weinstock believes that that the answer to antisemitism in the US, to the protests, “Is Semitism, being Jewish, proud Jewish, being responsive, continuing as much as possible. I can't judge for others, but those who wear kipot, wear the kipot. Keep being Jewish. Keep continuing Jewish life as much as possible. That's what continues, when Jews are proud of their Judaism and live their Judaism, that's the most important statement that could be made at this time.”

As President of the New York Board of Rabbis, Rabbi Weinstock talks about the role of the rabbis, saying that “Rabbis are meant to be leaders, are meant to be pastors, are there to try and support the community through the good times and the not so good times and since October 7th things have been very challenging. A lot of the focus has turned into what we can do. People feel they want to be supportive, they want to be active, and they turn to the Rabbis, asking them how can we do that. We try to give advice the best we can.”

Rabbi Weinstock adds that, “More often than that, we tell them to look to the example of the people of Israel and see how they've responded with unity, with support, with generosity and sometimes in the American Jewish community we're not always as united. We're Jews, we don't always agree and since October 7 try to encourage people to respond in a positive way, make a difference in someone's life, deepen your connection to your synagogue, to your Jewish community, to your connection with Israel and it's going to be hopefully something that's not just temporary. This hopefully will turn into a moment of real distinction for the community.”

Rabbi Weinstock is very concerned by US President Biden’s attitude to Israel, saying, “it's very upsetting to hear those statements and the Rabbi in me and the Talmud scholar in me is thinking, Which way does it get understood? ‘On the one hand, on the other hand, or as Tevye would say, on the third hand.’ Unfortunately, politicians say things that are troubling. Some of them mean it, some of them don't mean it, but it's politics. It doesn't make it any easier to listen to and what I tell myself, what I tell my congregants, is that I still I do believe that genuine support for Israel, support for the Jewish state, support for the Jewish people, runs deep in America. A lot of the polls that come out, the numbers are shown to be high, but at the same time the fractures are perfect opportunities to emphasize.”

“Unfortunately,” adds Rabbi Weinstock, “That's what some in the media want to do. They want to show that differentiation, those cracks in the relationship. I'm optimistic that as US Jews we have our jobs to do, to continue to be that shining example of what the US-Israel relationship is about to our non-Jewish neighbors, to the politicians, to show them by our support and by our votes, that we want people who will say, ‘we do support and hopefully that's a full stop in an unequivocal statement.”