Today is May 12, 2021 /

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Chizuk Amuno Congregation

Free Gilad Shalit

There was another time I remember feeling like this.

In the spring of 1986 Natan Sharansky made his first visit to New York after having been released from Russian prison in February of that year. Throughout my high school years I had marched on the UN in support of Soviet Jewry. I had seen the principal of my high school arrested for davenning in front of the Russian embassy in Manhattan. He had been very active in the movement to free Soviet Jewry and on Sharansky’s first visit to the States he was privileged to host him at his synagogue (Kehillath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side which was sadly destroyed by fire earlier this year). My high school, which was connected to the synagogue, suspended regular classes so that we could go greet Sharansky in his first moments in the United States.

Flights from Israel often arrive very early in the morning so we left New York City while it was still dark to go out to JFK airport and welcome Sharansky. There were hundreds of us there. While we waited we prayed Shaharit standing in the airport terminal despite curious stares and when Sharansky first came through the doors we cheered and sang and danced. It was an exceptional experience. As a teenager I was moved to tears even as I am today 25 years later just remembering it.

To have wished for something, to have worked for it, to have lobbied for it, to have prayed and hoped for it and then to see it come true is an extraordinary experience.

Those emotions and those images are what came to mind when I first heard the news of the impending release of Gilad Shalit. I broke out in goosebumps from my shoulders to my toes. It is far too soon to rejoice but dear God, it should just come to pass, speedily and in these days. That the sheltering canopy of the sukkah be that which embraces him on his return home.

Every morning in Birkot Hashahar we say Barukh atah adonai eloheinu melekh ha olam, matir asurim. Praised are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe who releases the bound. As we say it tomorrow let us pray that our berakhah sees its fulfillment in the homecoming of Gilad Shalit.