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

Local Grassroots Groups Keep Focus on Israel and Hostages

In the chaotic aftermath of the October 7th terrorist attacks in Israel, Nechama Brand-Schuman did what many Israeli Americans did, she tried to figure out how to help her family and friends who were impacted by tragedy. “Both my parents made aliya and I grew up in Israel. When it happened everyone was figuring out what was going on and what was needed.”  

What Brand-Schuman learned, was that the wives of soldiers who were killed were under tremendous stress. She began to send Shabbat care packages to these women to help bring some comfort to them. “It was hard for them to suddenly be on their own,” she says, “So I found some flowers, cake, chocolates, whatever was available in Israel.” Brand-Schuman focused on impacted communities and utilized woman-owned businesses.  

The feedback for the effort, known as Israeli Women of Valor, was swift and overwhelming. “One woman said she had been waking up with literally no strength. But there was a knock on the door with the delivery and she immediately felt better.”  

Brand-Schuman does most of the leg work herself, with a few local volunteers. All of the items she sends are donated, as well. And while the need is slowing down, she continues to send regular care packages when she hears of a woman in need in Israel. “There were times we said ‘thank god we’re here,’ we can do more than if we were there,” she says, “It’s the minimum I can do to help family and friends.” 

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Run for their Lives organizes weekly run/walks to raise awareness of the 134 people still being held hostage in Gaza.

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October 7th spurred others in Nashville to action. David Zilberman was born in Israel and eight months later his father was killed in the Yom Kippur War. His mother brough him to the United States not long after and he grew up in California. After a stint in the Israel Defense Force (IDF), he returned to California where he started a business and a family. He made the move to Nashville in 2020 after a tornado destroyed his company’s local offices, and the Covid19 pandemic shut down the world. “I knew there was a Jewish community here, but it was so hard to meet anyone at that time,” he says. 

When the attacks happened, Zilberman and his family were on vacation in New York City. “I reached out to my unit to see if I could serve, but they told me I was too old,” he says. “Those first days were really horrific, I just wanted to help.” 

Zilberman joined forces with other local Israelis and members of the Jewish community to form a nonprofit, Tennessee Stands with Israel. One of the group’s founding members is Leeron Resnick who is both Israeli and American and is on the staff of The Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville. “In the aftermath of October 7th, I felt helpless living here in Nashville, living so far away from Israel and so many of my loved ones. After the initial shock, a fire started burning inside of me and I knew I couldn't just sit and not do anything to help.” The group began by gathering and hanging flyers of the hostages. Momentum built and before long, they organized a solidary rally held at Legislative Plaza in downtown Nashville and attended by several hundred people. “It was important to me to get boots on the ground to be seen and heard,” says Resnick.  

The next event organized by TSWI was a stroller march to bring attention to the children who were held hostage. “We had 36 balloons for the 36 children in captivity,” says Zilberman. And over the past six months, and since the initial release of some of the hostages, events have grown to include a Women’s Rally in honor of International Women’s Day. “Our top priority is to bring the hostages home and to end this war. 134 people including children, women and elderly are being held hostage in Gaza and too many soldiers and too many innocent children have lost their lives,” says Resnick.  

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A stroller march helped keep focus on the 36 children initially held hostage in Gaza.

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Tennessee Stands with Israel is organized a solidarity rally in Legislative Plaza. Pictured l. is Leeron Resnick, and r. is David Zilberman 

Zilberman says other activities included support and partnerships outside the Jewish and Israeli communities. “I had various invitations from the Christian community to attend the National Religious Broadcasters convention.” And he says two Christian women from Hendersonville opened a Nashville chapter of the Run for their Lives, which organizes weekly run/walk events to raise awareness of and call for the release of the hostages. Zilberman says he is pleased to partner with anyone who supports Israel. “Politics and religion don’t matter. We can stand side by side to support Israel regardless of other policies.” 

At press time, it is nearly six months since October 7th and there are still 134 people being held hostage in Gaza. And Brand-Schuman, Zilberman, Resnick, and others involved in grassroots efforts, there is the sense that time may be running out. “Every person has the power to make a difference, and I wish for us all to stand up as proud Jews, speak up for our people and to not rest until all 134 hostages are returned home,” says Resnick.  



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