Nova Survivor Shares Personal Experience With Top Officials At Met Council Legislative Breakfast

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In a departure from Met Council’s traditional annual legislative breakfast the morning of the parade, this year began with the harrowing personal account of Michal Ohana, a survivor of the Nova Massacre. Michal spoke in tears about 10/7, the infamous day she was shot and left for dead to a sold-out audience of over 400 leaders, including 75 elected officials at the city, state, and federal levels.

“Met Council’s mission each day is tzedakah… rooted in the Hebrew word ‘justice,’ explained Met Council CEO David G. Greenfield. Gov. Hochul reflected on the Book of Proverbs “that reminds us that t’zedakah exalts a nation. It is the charitable work that is being done by the Met Council every single day, lifting G-d's people, and giving them hope.”

Greenfield spoke of the central issue, “Beyond the work that we do to fight poverty, domestic violence, and elder abuse, we must also lift the voices of our sisters and brothers who were attacked and are still being held hostage in Gaza,” Adding, “Ever since October 7th, the Jewish community has felt the injustices caused by Hamas’ attack and the ensuing wave of antisemitism across the world and here at home. That’s why we must advocate for ourselves.”

“On a recent trip to Israel, I had the opportunity to meet Michal, a remarkable young woman who lived through the atrocity committed by Hamas. Michal is a nurse with a bright future who put her life on hold to ensure that Hamas’ atrocities were never forgotten so that her 10 friends would not have died in vain,” stated Greenfield. “Today, she’s here in New York, addressing our state’s leaders from Albany, our representatives in Washington, and City officials from across all five boroughs, to ensure that we not only understand the scope of Hamas’ terror but to ensure that we stand up in the face of hate and of October 7th denial.”

Michal's moving address was preceded and followed by footage she recorded on her phone at the Nova music festival, first of the peaceful celebration and followed by the realization of the Hamas attack and ultimately her hiding from terrorists who eventually found, shot, and left her for dead until she was discovered more than eight hours later by the Israel Defense Forces. She spoke of her friends, many of whom were murdered during the attack and two who were kidnapped back to Gaza, and who remain hostages there to this day nearly eight months later. Her heartfelt story brought tears not only to her own eyes but to the eyes of many of the attendees who later mentioned her moving testimony during their own comments throughout the event, joining with her in her closing call to bring those held hostage home.

“I’ve been to festivals before, and until 6:30 a.m., the Nova festival was one of the greatest,” said Ohana. “First at 6:30 the rocket alerts began. Approximately 90 minutes later Hamas terrorists had arrived and were shooting at all of us. I ran, ran like I never did before, and over bodies that included some of my friends. I hid until Hamas found me and shot me. I thought I was going to die. On this one day, I lost 10 of my friends and two more were kidnapped to Gaza where they still remain today. We must bring them home, not tomorrow, but today!” Seeing a chance for New York Governor Kathy Hochul to hear from Ohana firsthand in the moments before marching down Fifth Avenue, QJL Senior Consultant Shabsie Saphirstein worked with Jake Adler, Jewish Liaison to the governor and ensured the two shared a cherished embrace.

“My message is very simple. As the home to the largest Jewish population outside of Israel anywhere, when the people of Israel are hurting, the people of New York are hurting,” said Governor Hochul in her remarks. “That is the sentiment we feel right now. We are here today, and to me that’s what this parade is all about, to stand with the hostages, and their families and to make sure they are reunited once and for all.”

The distinguished crowd at this year’s event included; New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli; Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine; Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso; Queens Borough President Donovan Richards; Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark; Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez; Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz; Congress Members Yvette Clarke; Jerrold Nadler; and Dan Goldman. As in prior years, the event saw a significant showing from New York’s state and city elected officials from all five boroughs.

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson deeply understands the work of Met Council, “No matter where you live in our city, no matter how much is in your bank, every New Yorker and every family should have access to affordable and quality housing and food services and wrap around services,” adding that the organization “reminds New Yorkers that during the greatest times of challenge, people can step up.” Gibson presented NYS Sen. Nathalia Fernandez the Affordable Housing Champion Award calling her a woman of commitment, consistency, dedication, honesty, integrity, and labor of love.

Rep. Grace Meng who earmarked a whopping $3 Million to Met Council over the  last two years explained how the group serves almost 300,000 people weekly via their food pantry network, support for affordable housing, assistance of domestic violence victims, help for Holocaust survivors and seniors. “There are people in my district who may not even know how to speak English, but they know the words Met Council,” adding, “I've been dreaming of starting a diaper bank in Queens for many, many years, but it took Met Council and their team to make that happen.” Meng also spoke of Greenfield’s multiple annual visits to Washington, DC where he urges for an increased access to kosher and halal food via the Department of Agriculture that is going to change lives and make more food available to more New Yorkers. Meng concluded with remarks to the families of hostages, many of whom she has met on their trips to Washington and discussed revelations where elected officials who have supported Israel have dealt with pro-ceasefire protestors at their homes, offices, and on the streets, “A ceasefire takes two. There are a lot of people who forget that it takes two. Now there is a deal on the table; the ball is in the court of Hamas. Let's make this happen.” Meng presented Rep. Tom Suozzi the Community Bridge Builder Award. Following the program, Suozzi was joined by Reps. Ritchie Torres and Dan Goldman for a presser with the families of IDF soldier Omer Neutra and Itay Chen, “The American people and New Yorkers need to recognize that Americans are held hostage right now by Hamas.” Suozzi made note of Omer’s parents’ strength “to not only stand up for their son, but for all the hostages.” 8 Americans were taken hostage on 10/7, 5 are reportedly alive. 2,542 Holocaust survivors are serviced by Met Council, 80 years after the horrors. “The veneer of civilization is paper thin,” quoted Suozzi of the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Congress Member, and Holocaust survivor whose name is forever attached to the Human Rights Commission of Congress.

Hochul was the first elected official to travel to the border by Gaza and gave an eyewitness account that those who were murdered by Hamas terrorists were making efforts “to have connections with the people just across that border, yet they were the ones whose blood was on the walls when I entered. And the horrible things that happened to women, how are we not as a nation calling that out every single day; that day was inhumane.” The governor urged all to use the solidarity of that mission today as her colleagues work to criminalize hate crimes and establish a desperately needed reeducation on the Holocaust.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James spoke of the shared history referencing the silent march of African American pain and struggle that is ingrained in American history. “Today I march as an ally of the Jewish community because of the same pain and struggle, the same devastation, the same death, and for all that they have been subjected to.”

At the event Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA Federation of New York, revealed a project with Met Council to provide an array of social services under one 14,000 square foot roof at the cost of $12 Million. Mark Treyger, CEO of JCRC-NY, thanked Met Council’s Greenfield for coming to his aid when he served as Coney Island’s Council Member, “Towards the tail end of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the government had a difficult time setting up meal deliveries for seniors. Many senior centers were forced to close temporarily because it was not safe enough to operate in person. Having represented one of the highest concentrations of public housing senior housing, including nursing homes in southern Brooklyn, who was the first to reach out to offer help to seniors and to helping communities during their moments of need, it was David Greenfield and the incredible team at Met Council. Trucks and trucks of boxes of food and meals for seniors and high need families during their moments of need.”

As U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer announced funding of $1,000,000 from Washington to help you “build a beautiful warehouse,” Greenfield was forced to quiet the room that jeered the local senator who opposed his recent demand for the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “I appreciate that we have a diverse group… but there are few people that work harder for the community than Senator Schumer.” In Hebrew the senator joked about there being decorum which the dignitary received for the remainder of his remarks. “We're gathering at one of the most challenging times for the Jewish people in America and in all of history. It has been eight months since the single worst single day of violence against Jewish people since the Holocaust. Hamas' goal on October 7th was to provoke a tough response from Israel by killing as many Jews as possible in the most vicious manner possible and dragging hundreds of hostages back into their network of tunnels underneath Gaza. My heart breaks for the hostages. I met with them on October 10th, 3 days after the attack and carnage in Gaza. They hide behind their fellow Palestinians by turning hospitals into command centers, refugee camps into missile launching sites. The leaders of Hamas do not care one iota of all the Palestinians. They'd rather use them as human shields. Until Hamas is defeated, we cannot have peace in our approach to this conflict. We must hold four goals: paramount first is that the threat of Hamas must be radically reduced. Hamas cannot have any role in the future Gaza if we're to have peace, as long as Hamas exists, there will never be a two-state solution, which is something I support, President Biden supports, and most of us support. Second, we have to bring the hostages back home. Third, Israel should do everything possible to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties. Of course, Israel has a fundamental right to defend itself. What the ICC and other international organizations have done to Israel is despicable. They've always been viciously against Israel. There's nothing new about that. It's not news that they would be biased against Israel. Fourth, we have to supply humanitarian aid to the civilians in Gaza who are being used by Hamas as mere shields.” Schumer ended by taking credit for Congressional support to Israel’s military, for creating the initial nonprofit security grant program, and for being first to speak out against rising antisemitism to his colleagues on the Senate floor.

May we each be each other’s shomer and only be on the helping end of Met Council’s phenomenal work.

Met Council is America’s largest tzedakah fighting poverty. In the past year, Met Council served over 325,000 people in need through a wide array of services including affordable housing, free food, crisis intervention, combating domestic violence, and assisting over 2,000 underprivileged Holocaust survivors.