Walk for Israel CEO finds optimism in a hacked website.

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It seems almost daily now that we read or hear about a Jewish organization, school or JCC that is affected by some form of anti-Semitism. Several weeks ago, when my wife called and told me our youngest daughter’s Jewish Day school had received a vague email that caused a several-hour lockdown, I was troubled and saddened.

Last Tuesday, I received yet another disturbing phone call, only this time it was regarding the Walk for Israel website. As I logged on to the site and saw the hateful message that had taken over the home screen, I immediately felt a wave of different emotions. My mind flooded with questions: How did this happen? Who would want to do this? Why? How can we fix it?

I followed protocol and reported the incident to the West Bloomfield Police Department, which opened an investigation. I spoke with our web hosting company who could restore a backup of the website to remove the inciteful message. I contacted our PR company for advice and, after much discussion, it was decided people needed to know about it.

That’s when things went a little haywire and, before I knew it, my phone was blowing up and TV news vans were parked in my driveway. As the last news crew left our home late Tuesday night, my feelings changed from discouragement to optimism. The first interviews discussed how it happened and my feelings about why it happened.

As the evening wore on, my daughter Emily proudly handed me a piece of paper on which she had written: “Israel is on the map to stay, and she will never go away!” She triggered in my mind what I always knew: Israel and her supporters do not waiver! We are strong and united! I had been caught up in the minutia of the website hack: the who and the why. I just needed a little reminder during this long, emotional day of what was really important.

If the hackers’ motivation was to intimidate and scare us, the result was the exact opposite. Though people have always done this to us as Jews, we have found a way to rise above this hatred and anti-Semitism and carry on.

Throughout that night and the next day, I received hundreds of text messages, emails, Facebook postings and tweets from people expressing their sadness (and anger), but also encouraging me to carry on and, most, importantly telling me they will be at the Walk for Israel on Sunday, May 7, to show their support. The message was loud and clear: We will not allow something like this to keep us away.

We are so fortunate to live in a community where so many people of any race, religion or creed support Israel and her right to exist. It is a feeling one can only truly experience when you come out and walk together proudly. We walk as a family, as a part of our community and as a part of Israel. We are Israel and we walk together!

I won’t ever say what happened was a good thing. It was hurtful and reminded me that anti-Semitism has seemingly become ubiquitous in America and around the world. But we can take these incidents and turn them around for the better. To encourage and motivate. To teach and inspire. Join me and my family on Sunday, May 7, and do just that.

Andre Douville Special to the Jewish News

Andre Douville is executive director at Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield and CEO of the Walk for Israel (www.walkforisrael.org).

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