Photo Credit: Centennial Institute

Since October 8, I’ve been emotionally numbed. Little did I imagine it would take a trans-Atlantic trip to Colorado for the deep freeze of my emotions to thaw, at least temporarily. But so it was when I found myself at a benefit dinner for Israel hosted by Colorado Christian University (CCU).

Afterward, I was perplexed. What missing element did this dinner offer? What generated a long-suppressed emotional release? I had been to multiple funerals, over half a dozen shiva houses, a singing kumsitz, Psalms recitals daily in synagogue, and many other emotional settings. In fact, just two days earlier I was part of the largest turnout in the history of the JNF Global Conference, a powerful event in its own right.


As a volunteer, I’ve seen firsthand the unprecedented mobilization of Israeli society to support bereaved families, families whose husbands/fathers were called up, and refugees from the South and North. So, what missing element did this dinner offer?

Eventually, it hit me. Everywhere else, I need to give. As a teacher and psychologist, I am asked to guide and to support others. As an Israeli Jew, I ask myself to volunteer, pray, engage in activism and offer empathy and condolences. Prayer gatherings or political rallies – which do offer strength and support as well – have an undercurrent of emotional energy being spent. And in any Jewish context today, there is the underlying awareness that everyone else present is also holding onto their own suffering.


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Even routine, mundane occurrences in Israel tug at one’s emotional reserves. Seeing a banner “Together we will win” evinces pride, but mixed in are thoughts of, “How many people will pay the ultimate sacrifice until then?” Seeing friends return home for a 24- to 48-hour furlough brings relief, but thrown into sharp relief is how anxious their wives and children must be before and after that precious oasis in time. Finding an apartment or furnishings for a refugee family brings joy and gratitude, but mixed in is an overwhelming sense of pity for how destitute some of these families now are.

At CCU, there were no mixtures. Nothing was asked of me except to feel and accept their heartfelt support. It was a night amongst a community unaffected directly by October 7 or the ensuing tidal wave of hate on college campuses, a community not in pain and not in need of empathy, yet a community that stood tall and said, “Here is our collective shoulder. Lean on us.” Lean on them I certainly did. For the first time since October 7, I felt fully present in the moment, my mental rat race – namely, “Which families have a husband/father called up?” “Who might have an apartment to offer?” “Contact politicians/organizations/former students” “How can I resource equipment for a friend in the army?” – finally put on pause.

Remarkably, this experience of being fully present took hold of me despite having an early morning flight the next day for which I still hadn’t started packing. This was a signal that my mental rat race isn’t due to a logistical burden, but an emotional burden of constantly feeling the need to do more for the endless needs in Israel. Yet, in that moment, CCU fostered an atmosphere that allowed me to take a few moments for myself, my own mourning, my own emotional connection.

The atmosphere began to take hold the moment we walked in the door. The décor was as exquisite as it was heartwarming. White tablecloths with blue runners. Multiple Israeli and American flags on every table. Gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows nearly invisible due to being plastered with large hostage posters. Large, wall-mounted screens with pictures of the hostages. As I entered, Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute and dinner organizer, poignantly remarked, “I can assure you, no one will be tearing down those posters over here.” Later, a gut-wrenching video of the hostages and October 7 footage was shown.


The atmosphere actually began to take hold before we even showed up. At nobody’s request, CCU took the initiative to make the dinner kosher at a universal standard, hiring the local Scroll K Vaad to supervise the local caterer. As well, the prayer vigil was a recital of Psalms, a vocabulary of prayer that Jews and Christians share. And with the exception of one student speaker, all biblical references were from Tanach.

Speaker after speaker reiterated the University’s commitment to Israel and to the Jewish nation. Each one was overflowing with love and support, not simply of a political nature, but as a deep, heartfelt expression of their humanity.

It is also a community uninterested in limiting itself to the field of sympathetic words, meaningful as those are. As Hunt declared, “In planning this dinner, we wanted to have a night of fellowship, inspiration, mourning, and resolve…. but now we will pivot to action. We are going to save lives in Israel because of tonight.” At the suggestion of Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, (full disclosure: Rabbi Goldberg is my father), CCU chose to raise money for United Hatzalah, a first aid organization serviced by, and servicing, Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze alike. Incredibly, a $500,000 matching gift from a generous member of the CCU community was announced. To date, that has nearly been matched with almost $1 million raised for medical supplies.

Perhaps none of this should have surprised me, if my single previous interaction with CCU was to serve as any indication. I emailed Dr. Donald Sweeting, chancellor of CCU, two months ago asking if he would consider signing on to Yeshiva University’s coalition of higher education against Hamas. His response? An emphatic “yes.” His only regret? Not knowing about it earlier so that CCU could have been one of the founding members of the coalition.

A different Yeshiva University connection was a pleasant surprise. For a few years I took the YU/BIU summer research program to an archaeological dig (Tel es-Safi/Gath, site of David and Goliath’s battle), and each time I noticed a flag with my home state “Colorado” on it. Lo and behold, it was a group from CCU. Meeting the department heads, Dr. Seth Rodriguez and Dr. David Kotter, was a privilege, a pleasure, and hopefully only the first of many such meetings.

Some are uncomfortable with the notion of accepting support from evangelical Christians, under the assumption that part of their theological mission is to convert Jews. CCU has no such specific mission, and other evangelical organizations such as HaYovel have publicly disavowed such an approach. For decades now, many Jews have been building these interfaith bridges through organizations such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Yeshivath Sharashim.

Others are uncomfortable due to evangelicals’ association with a political worldview diametrically opposed to their own. Yet, people regularly affiliate with organizations to their left. Should one not forge an alliance with people to their right? In any event, to be qualified to speak at the CCU event, every speaker had to pledge to be non-partisan.

Indeed, it is true that ultimately the Jews are “a nation that dwells alone” (Numbers 23:9), as Sen. Chuck Schumer powerfully reminded the Senate recently. However, that does not mean we refuse alliances, certainly not ones that respect our religious differences and traditional observance. Throughout history, our greatest leaders – from Rebbi Yehuda, redactor of the Mishna, to 20th-century Torah giant Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski – have forged partnerships even with hostile local governments and other partners. Today, the American Jewish community and Yeshiva University are lucky to have as strong an ally as one could ask for.

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Rabbi Chaim Goldberg has semicha from RIETS and a graduate degree in child clinical psychology from Hebrew University. Aside from practicing psychology and teaching Torah at various yeshivot/seminaries, he runs Mussar Links, a non-profit dedicated to publishing the Torah writings of Rabbi Hillel Goldberg.