Over 500 New York area residents, many of them students from yeshiva high schools and Jewish day schools, packed the street opposite the Israeli Consulate a block from the United Nations on Wednesday afternoon, October 17th. They were observing a public shloshim (30 days after the death) of Ari Fuld, who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist on September 16th at the Gush Etzion shopping center. Fuld was a noted Israel activist and educator; his family was well-known in New York before they made aliyah two decades ago. Ari’s father Yonah had been the principal of the S/A/R Academy in Riverdale.
Wednesday’s shloshim was organized by Amcha-Coalition for Jewish Concerns, with participation by, among others, the S/A/R Academy, Westchester Torah Academy, North Shore Hebrew Academy, Kinneret Day School, Ramaz High School, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Yeshiva Maharat.
Speakers included Israeli Consul-General Dani Dayan, Amcha-CJC chairman Rabbi Avi Weiss, principals of several of the participating schools, community rabbis, and students from among the schools. The crowd listened raptly to a taped message from Yonah Fuld in Israel. Many said that the phrase that touched them most was Rabbi Weiss’ assertion that Ari, who was busy every waking moment in many positive endeavors and who managed to shoot at his Palestinian attacker even though mortally wounded, thus saving others’ lives, “did not go down to his death, but ascended”.
The shloshim ended with a long line of participants holding up placards with Ari’s photo and Israeli flags walking to the famed Isaiah Peace Wall opposite the UN, which bears the carved inscription of the biblical prophet’s graphic vision of an end to war.
Also present at the shloshim and memorial for Ari Fuld, ztk’l was Joshua Wander, who is currently on a US speaking tour from October 16-30. Mr. Wander lives in Israel and will be addressing the topics of Israel advocacy, the rebuilding of Jerusalem as well as the redemptive process and the legacy of Ari Fuld, ztk’l for American Jewish audiences.
Wander served as a commander in the IDF and officer in the United States Air Force auxiliary before graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a Master’s degree in Public and International Affairs. In Israel he has served as an adviser in the Knesset, on the central committee for the Jewish Home Party and as the online content editor for the Jerusalem Post. He currently works as a public relations consultant and expert in Israel advocacy.
The Jewish Voice caught up with Mr. Wander on the day that the shloshim for Ari Fuld took place in New York to ask him questions about his speaking tour.
JV: Can you tell our readers why you scheduled this speaking tour now?
JW: I had already had a speaking tour planned. But things changed and I dedicated the tour in the memory of Ari after his murder. Also, he was meant to have gone on his own tour in November and I took over some of his speaking engagements.
JV: You are originally from the US. Can you tell us about your background growing up in Pittsburgh and your political association with the GOP party there?
JW: I left Pittsburgh at age 12 to study in Yeshiva in Baltimore for high school and then moved on to Israel afterwards. After having served in the IDF, gotten married and having had three children in Israel, we temporarily moved back to Pittsburgh, where I completed my graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh. While I was back I was appointed as a Republican Committeeman, was elected as a PA State Constable and eventually, became the Republican nominee for mayor of the city.
JV: What issues will you be presenting to Jewish audiences besides the tribute to Ari Fuld, ztk’l? Are you seeking to gain support for any particular projects?
JW: I will be speaking about the importance of Aliya. Jewish and Israel advocacy, especially on college campuses and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the redemptive process. As a public relations consultant for projects in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, I will be promoting those projects. For example, I live on Har HaZeisim and we are in the process of building an incredible shul/community center there.
JV: Concerning the redemption of Jerusalem and permanently establish a Jewish footprint there, can you elaborate on your initiatives in that regard?
JW: Our community is one of five Jewish communities on the Mount of Olives. Even though we currently have around 1000 Jews, the city has recently built us a Mikveh to service a population of 50,000. If that gives you an idea of how quickly we are expanding! Areas in the east of Jerusalem that were completely judenrein, are today once again home to many Jewish families. This is clearly a Nevuah being fulfilled in the end of days. ‘Children play in its streets’ (Zechariah 8:4)
JV: Can you tell our readers how Ari Fuld, ztk’l built a reputation as an intrepid activist on behalf of his people and about some of the causes that he was most dedicated to?
JW: Ari HY”D was part of a special group of dedicated individuals that spend every day trying to show the positive of Israel off to the world and fight against the injustice and lies spread by the anti-Israel camp. His love was providing some comfort to Israeli soldiers. That included bringing them warm clothing in the winter and cooling them off in the hot summers. Providing them with ample food and drink throughout the year and always being on hand to offer assistance and a kind word. IDF soldiers like Ari and I know what it’s like to be in the field for weeks without any basic comforts of life, and he believed the least they deserved was an open heart and a warm smile.
JV: What is or was your role as a Knesset adviser and central committeeman for the Jewish Home party? Did you influence party policy as it pertains to the status of Jerusalem? Do you have plans to run in the next Knesset elections?
JW: I was an adviser to the Moledet Faction in the Knesset under assassinated minister of tourism, Rechavam Zeevi HY”D and Rav Beni Elon z”l. Today I continue to influence as an elected central committee member of the Bayit Yehudi Party. As such, I influence internal party policy and structure. I have no plans to run at this point, but I won’t rule a run out in the future.
JV: As a person who formerly served in the military, what is your perspective on how the government of Israel can best go about dealing with the proliferation of terrorism targeting Jews? What is the general sense from people in Israel about the way the government handles terrorists after the murder of Ari Fuld, ztk’l?
JW: I cannot speak as an official representative of the IDF. My personal views are that the government needs to do a lot more to restore confidence, security and a sense of deterrent in Israel. “Dam Yehudi Aino Hefker” Jewish blood May never be cheap. Not in Israel, and not anywhere else in the world. We are not in the same place we were prior to 1948. Today, for the first time in 2000 years, we have Jewish sovereignty in our land and a Jewish army to protect us. We must always be vigilant!
JV: Polls show that a great majority of Israelis support President Trump. How would you gauge the job he has done thus far and do you think that any peace plan that his administration will put forth will actually lead to a long last Israeli-Palestinian peace?
JW: Indeed President Trump is much more liked across Israel, then it seems in the US. He has put together a more pro-Israel team than the Israeli government. Pompeo, Haley, Kushner, Friedman, Greenblatt etc. it’s a dream team. I just hope that Israel takes full advantage of this incredible window of opportunity. I’ll wait to comment when I see the plan, but I don’t see a real peace plan being brokered in the Middle East in the near future.
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