(JTA) — Several participants in a rally at the Israeli consulate in New York on behalf of the three kidnapped Israeli teens later joined a second rally nearby focused on the kidnapping of 200 Nigerian girls.
The second rally was outside the Nigerian consulate. The girls’ mass abduction by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram spurred the viral hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, which in turn inspired the #BringBackOur Boys campaign on behalf of the abducted Israelis.
At the #BringBackOurBoys rally, the organizer, Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, led the crowd in a chant of “We are with you” in a bid of solidarity with the abducted teens and sang “Am Yisrael Chai” with the crowd. Not long afterward, Weiss was two blocks away, speaking and singing at a #BringBackOurGirls rally on behalf of the Nigerian girls.
Jordan Soffer, a student of Weiss, had happened upon the Nigerian girls’ rally as he was leaving the Israeli boys’ one. He ran back to notify Weiss, who immediately headed to the Nigeria rally and was invited to speak.
The slogan #BringBackOurBoys has met with some criticism, with some arguing that it was wrong to appropriate the language used by those advocating on behalf of the still-captive Nigerian girls. But Weiss told JTA that the participants at the Nigeria rally embraced him.
As Weiss sang Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s “Leman Achai Veraai,” members of both groups put their arms around each other, Weiss said.
“Any missing child in any area of the world is the concern of every citizen of the world,” Ebbe Bassey Manczuk, who spoke at the Nigeria rally and does media work in New York for the #BringBackOurGirls effort, told JTA.
Speaking before the #BringBackOurGirls group, Weiss recalled, he highlighted the commonality of the experiences and losses of the two communities, noting that both had suffered at the hands of terrorists. He said he urged the two communities to stand up for one another.
“It was an experience. Wearing a tallit, I spoke about the commonality of godliness in all people,” Weiss told JTA. “I remarked that just as [President Obama] said ‘These girls are my daughters,’ he should also say, ‘These boys are my sons.’”