The Jewish Observer
News from Middle Tennessee's Jewish Community | Saturday, April 13, 2024
The Jewish Observer

Jewish Community Members Meet and Welcome Israeli Hostage Families

Last month Israeli family members of people continuing to be held hostage in Gaza met in Nashville with representatives from The Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville and the local Jewish community.  


The meeting was arranged and occurred just a day after Federation president Leslie Kirby saw a post on social media about the families’ visit. In attendance were members of the Federation’s board, congregants from local synagogues and religious schools, and Metro council members. 


The families described the horrors of October 7, and talked about their fears for their loved ones. They also asked for support in calling for the release of all the remaining hostages.  


Below are reflections from some of those who attended the meeting. 


Leslie Kirby, president Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville: 


We met with two members of hostage member families. The primary one was Moshe Emilio Lavi, who is the brother-in-law of hostage Omri Moran. The other’s name was Effie, the sister of one of the hostages. Effie did not want to be filmed or personally identified. They both spoke of vibrant, brave, resilient men nabbed in the prime of their lives, both with young children still at home.  


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Members of Israeli hostage families met with representatives of Nashville’s Jewish community, elected officials and the press.

In each case, they were living on a kibbutz, their homes were breached in the early morning of October 7th. Moshe’s family members were tortured for hours, along with another family, before they took the husband and threatened the wife and kids not to leave the house or they would be killed. Effie’s brother's family was all taken hostage, including a 10 month old and a 2 ½  year old child. Her brother and his older son were taken together, the son was one of the hostages who was released in the temporary cease fire deal. The wife and 2 younger children were taken on a motorbike; the motorbike was wrecked right before they got to Gaza and she was able to escape with the children. It took her hours to get back to the kibbutz.   


Words can’t really convey the depth of pain they’re all feeling, not knowing where their family members are, or what is being done to them. Everyone in the room was deeply moved by hearing their stories. It felt like kismet, it all happened because of one social media post - and that’s their message. We should all be sharing about it. You never know who is going to see and how they’re going to be impacted. 


David Bockian, Board member, Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville: 


I had a million thoughts racing through my head. I wish that I understood the “end game” of it all. The horrors that so many families lived through, and for what? What did Hamas gain? How can anyone hate someone else so emphatically that murdering innocent civilians including children is in any way justifiable? The history of this land is covered in blood, and I am not even sure anyone has a plan besides hatred. Listening to two family’s stories exposed fatigue, fear, hope and more than anything the love for their family.  I could never put myself in their place, but when Moshe said, “Everyday since has been October 7th,” I realized how fortunate we are and how proud I am to be able to support Israel and their cause. I pray for everyone that this will end soon. 


Austin Center, chair Community Relations Committee, Knoxville Jewish Alliance: 

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Sitting with two incredibly strong and resilient individuals like Moshe and Effie is our “call to action” to bear witness. This is the bond we share as Jews. Hearing their families’ heartache as two of their loved ones, Omir Miran and Ohad Yahalami, two of 132 other hostages whose families as Moshe said “live Oct. 7th day after day” reminds me of a saying from our prayer book I read every Shabbat. “Pray as if everything depends on G-d, act as if everything depends on you.”  We can pray all we want but it is our voice that is needed, and I will not sit silent.  We must stand up, we must speak out, we must act to bring Omir and Ohad home, to bring all the hostages home. 



Michael Dzik, Executive Director, Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga: 


I was in Israel just last month. I met with a hostage family member at that time. Last night was a reminder that there are thousands of stories. The heartbreak is real; it affects all of us. I cannot imagine the pain of having a family member as a hostage for 139 days – and counting. It was also touching to see several Nashville families brought their teens to hear the stories. I’m sure they are stunned, but October 7 has become part of our history; it’s who we are as a Jewish people. We must bear witness but also continue to share these stories with everyone in our communities. We must not forget why this war is happening. We must not forget the barbarity of what happened that day. We will continue to share these stories. 



Simon Newman: 


I sincerely appreciated having the opportunity to hear the stories from the hostage family members. It was so different getting the story of the horror directly and to grasp the gravity of what happened on October 7.  It truly is surreal and is something that you think would only happen in a movie, but unfortunately it is the reality that too many people went through. Hearing Effie’s story of her brother and 15 year old nephew being taken hostage especially hit home.  While it is amazing that her nephew is now back home, it is so important that we continue to support and fight for the 134 Israelis that are still held hostage by Hamas. It was so important to us to hear the stories directly and to show our support for those who live through the unimaginable every day. 



Sophie Newman: 


Only being in 6th grade, I feel like at first, I didn’t understand the brutality of October 7. As I started to realize the depth of it, I realized how awful Hamas’s actions were. It is terrible to think kids my age, and even younger, were killed, shot, and taken hostage for absolutely no reason. Hearing the speakers was almost like an awakening for me. At first, I mainly focused on the fact of the deaths and hostages, and not how Hamas’s actions affected others. Hearing from family members, I found it neat to hear about their loved one’s hobbies, personality, and so much more. It was something I will truly never forget.