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June 17, 2014 12:23 pm

Solidarity Campaigns for Kidnapped Girls in Nigeria, Boys in Israel, Converge in New York

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Supporters of the Jewish boys and Nigerian girls expressing solidarity with the kidnapped youth in New York City, on June 16, 2014. Photo: Facebook / Jordan Soffer.

Supporters of the Jewish boys and Nigerian girls expressing solidarity with the kidnapped youth in New York City, on June 16, 2014. Photo: Facebook / Jordan Soffer.

Two solidarity campaigns for kidnapped youth converged in New York City on Monday, when a group of Jews, including the Riverdale rabbi who founded ‘Open Orthodoxy,’ joined a rally in front of the Nigerian consulate, where the rabbi was invited to offer the closing speech.

The rally was organized to show solidarity with the 300 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, in Nigeria, and was down the street from another prayer session for the three Jewish yeshiva students kidnapped last week by Hamas.

When the rabbi, Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, spoke, he highlighted that only by the whole world insisting on each person’s human right to dignity would the Nigerian girls and the Jewish boys be returned to their families.

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Jordan Soffer, a yeshiva student at the scene, posted on Facebook about what happened when the two solidarity groups met.Something remarkable happened today,” Soffer said. “As I was leaving a prayer service for the three boys kidnapped on their way home from Yeshiva, I ran into a rally for the abducted Nigerian school girls. Having some free time, I decided to join that rally, too.”

“Soon, Seth Braunstein and I decided to run and invite Rav Avi Weiss to the rally. As I ran back to invite Rav Avi, Seth spoke with the organizers of this rally (taking place outside the Nigerian Consulate), and told them that Rabbi Weiss would be joining. They invited Rav Avi to be their final speaker.”

Rabbi Avi Weiss in a solidarity march for the 300 missing girls in Nigeria, in New York City, on June 16, 2014. Photo: Facebook / Jordan Soffer.

Rabbi Avi Weiss in a solidarity march for the 300 missing girls in Nigeria, in New York City, on June 16, 2014. Photo: Facebook / Jordan Soffer.

“He spoke about our commitment to stand up for each other,” Soffer recalled. “The girls in Nigeria and the boys in Israel, he said, will never be found, unless every person in the world sees them as their brother, sister, daughter or son. G-d created man singularly, he preached in the name of the Talmud, so that no person can claim superiority over another human being.”

“We closed by singing a [Shlomo] Carlebach niggun [a wordless melody] together,” Soffer said. “‘Because of my brothers and friends, Because of my sisters and friends, Please let me ask, please let me sing, peace to you. This is the house, the house of the Lord, I wish the best for you.'”

In an interview with The Algemeiner on Tuesday, Rabbi Weiss said the Nigerian girls were also mentioned at a rally for the Jewish boys in front of the Israeli consulate.

He said, “We are facing a common enemy of extreme Islamic terror – they kidnapped the Nigerian girls and Hamas kidnapped the boys – it’s all the same.”

The rabbi described how moved he was by being asked to participate in the Nigerian rally. “It was overwhelming, it was a beautiful, you wish it was unnecessary, but it was an unbelievable, uplifting holy experience.”

“I have been an activist for some time and this was one of the great moments,” the rabbi said, adding that a follow up joint rally is being planned for Sunday in Riverdale.

“Just as President Obama declared ‘Bring home the girls, they are my daughters’, he should be declaring, ‘Bring home the boys, they are my sons,'” Weiss said.

At the weekend, when the Israeli government confirmed reports that the three Jewish students, two Israeli and one American, were kidnapped while hitchhiking, supporters took to social media, with the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurBoys, modeled on the #BringBackOurGirls campaign that is being supported most famously by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.

While Hamas supporters piggybacked on the online campaign to denigrate Israel and applaud the kidnapping, political leaders around the world and celebrities showed their support for the three boys being returned safely.

Overnight, the IDF arrested scores of Hamas members and seized weapons caches in Nablus.

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