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Richmond synagogue postpones 50-year celebration due to on-going war

The Israel-Hamas war has plunged the Jewish community into sadness.
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Rabbi Susan Tendler prepares for Friday prayers at the Beth Tikvah Synagogue in south Richmond.

This is not the right time for one of the largest Jewish organizations in Richmond to celebrate, despite hitting a half-century milestone this fall.

A gala to celebrate 50 years of existence for the Beth Tikvah Synagogue has been put on pause given the on-going Israel-Hamas war and the sadness it’s brought to the Jewish congregation.

“Now doesn’t feel like a celebrating time,” said Susan Tendler, rabbi of Beth Tikvah.

Mindy Zimmering, who is the gala chair, said, while the Jewish community shouldn’t “cower,” now doesn’t seem like a good time to hold the planned gala, which would have commemorated the south Richmond synagogue’s 50th anniversary.

The on-going war is making the Jewish community feel like they’re “walking in mud,” Zimmering added.

“Please, god, make this end,” she told the Richmond News.

For the Jewish community, the hostages being held by Hamas are weighing heavily on their minds, and it seems everyone has a connection to them or someone killed in the Oct. 7 attack, Tendler explained.

Tendler said they are praying for the hostages to be returned home.

She also wants to see an end to the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding.

“I don’t believe Hamas represents the Palestinian people,” Tendler said.

The synagogue near Railway Avenue and Williams Road opened its doors in 1977, but the congregation was established in 1973.

Zimmering said the synagogue, that comprises about 200 families, has always been, and continues to be, very active in Richmond, delivering kosher meals to people who are house-bound, running hamper programs, visiting the sick and helping families who lose loved ones.

There is a saying in Judaism, she said, “tikku olam” which means “repair the world,” and that is the credo of Beth Tikvah, Zimmering explained.

The war between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip where two million Palestinians live, began on Oct. 7 when Hamas breached Israeli security and raided two kibbutzim and attacked people at a music concert.

In addition to killing 1,400 Israelis, they took about 200 hostages who are largely still being held in Gaza.

Israel has been bombing Gaza since then, trying to root out Hamas and find the hostages. They began a ground offensive more than a week ago.

It’s estimated about 12,000 people have died in Gaza since the war began.

Zimmering said she believes in a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian situation, but she is “not a fan of Hamas,” and she describes the terrorist group’s attack on Israel as “horrific.”

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