The past few days have filled us with anguish and heartbreak. I was in Israel when the horrific attacks carried out by Hamas started on Saturday. My team and I are safe, but I’m shaken, angered, and heartbroken by the rising toll of deaths and number of civilians being held hostage, including American citizens.
I stand with the people of Israel and the families of those who have lost loved ones.
I’m committed to doing all I can to support the people of Israel who are facing unimaginable pain, innocent Palestinian civilians who are also victims of violence, and American families who have lost or are missing loved ones.
We also cannot ignore the rise in antisemitism or threats to American religious communities, and we must take extra precaution here at home to ensure their safety and security. I’m committed to protecting our places of worship in New Jersey. In my time in the U.S. Senate, I’ve been proud to work with places of worship and organizations across the state to deliver federal funding that will strengthen security and protect our communities.
In moments like this, we come together in affirmation of the truth that our lives are interdependent. I have faith that our common humanity and yearning for a just peace will triumph over the forces of violence and division.
Words cannot express the profound sorrow and grief my wife Marie and I share with all Israelis and the Jewish community.
Hamas’ absolutely savage terrorist attacks and its barbaric slaughtering, raping and kidnapping of innocent Israelis and Americans is a manifestation of its unbridled hate and deadly antisemitism.
Over the past few days, I have received many reports from constituents who are currently in Israel—or whose relatives and friends are in Israel—who seek to return to the United States as soon as possible but are unable to do so.
The dangers these US citizens face are so grave, and the responsibility of the US Government for their safety so paramount, that their evacuation must be immediately secured.
After requesting evacuation assistance from State Department officials on Saturday, I wrote to President Biden on Monday urging him to use all appropriate US resources and tools to arrange for the immediate evacuation of American citizens in Israel who are desperately trying to return home.
I also pressed Biden Administration officials again at a closed-door briefing in Washington, DC this morning.
There now appears to be a break in their opposition to evacuate Americans. We await their plans and will demand they are sufficient, comprehensive and for real.
Now more than ever, the United States must stand boldly with Israel. Yesterday, I cosponsored legislation to provide $2 billion to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome defense system and to freeze the $6 billion the Administration released to Iran.
As we mourn for those who have lost their lives, we stand in absolute solidarity with Israel, support Israel’s right to defend itself, and demand justice.
I am sorry that I could not be with you tonight. I’m sure many of you at this vigil have loved ones in Israel, know someone who has been in harm's way, or know what that feels like.
I’m grateful that we have a community that we can gather together as we do right now to reflect, pray, and lend support to one another.
I wanted to share with you one story. One of the most profound experiences that I ever had traveling abroad was one of the visits that I had to Jerusalem. I was a fairly new Member of Congress at that time and I happened to be there on the night of the 9th of Av. I walked through jerusalem. I was there at the wall. Seeing so many people coming out - hands against the wall - crying and taking it all in, thinking through, and just embodying the pain across thousands of years. The destruction of the temples. Embodying that within themselves. Tears gushing out.
I stood there and I immediately recognized that I may never fully understand that experience, but I do have a sense of empathy. And now this weekend, I talked to so many people in the community and recognized that pain, suffering and struggling again. It isn't just something from the history books. It is today. The struggle and the pain is today. We are still struggling. Lives are at risk. Temples are being destroyed. Cities, neighborhoods, and communities are under attack.
It's that understanding of that collectivity - that collective pain and the embrace of the community that I saw out in Jerusalem that I see right here in this community - it is so strong.
I know there are concerns about the violence in Israel and I’ve heard concerns about potential violence and antisemitism here and that is something that we all have to work together and my pledge to you is that I will do everything that I humanly can to work with all of you to be able to keep us safe. To be able to fight against antisemitism no matter who it is, no matter what political party, no matter what someone says, we have to recognize that antisemitism and hatred cannot be allowed to stand for us as a country and as a people.
To the kids, students, and young people in the community, I will say to you what I told my little boys this weekend: What you see in the news, what you hear about - it doesn't have to be this way. I know that it's scary. I know that it’s tough to see. But know that your parents, myself, and everyone in this room will do everything we humanly can to keep you safe, to fight against those that seek to do harm, and to make sure that we live the kind of lives that you want to live and for you to grow old with peace and stability. That is my promise to you.