The organization was ostensibly formed in 2001 in the aftermath of the barbaric murder of Koby Mandell and his friend, Yosef Ish-Ran, in Tekoa. Roz and her husband Jerry were up all night, trying to process such a terrifying and unimaginable pain.
But the seeds were sewn much earlier. Her maternal grandfather was an ardent Zionist who, prior to the Holocaust, used to carry Roz's mother on his back to Zionist meetings. A religious man, he had fought in the Polish army against the Germans and used his newly acquired skills in training young men to fire arms as they prepared for their future life in the land of Israel.
In addition, Roz is the child of survivors. Her mother spent the war years in hiding, her father in a labor camp, and her stepfather was in Auschwitz. The horrors of the Holocaust shaped her life (for Roz, the suicide bombings of buses were an eerie reminder of the gas chambers -- a large number of Jews confined in one spot for slaughter).
The rebirth of the state of Israel was another definitive factor in her young life. Roz vividly remembers the excitement in the air among the small community of survivors whenever they spoke of Israel. They lived together in Boyle Heights, the original (and now abandoned) Jewish neighborhood of Los Angeles and attended LA's first synagogue, the Breed Street Shul. In this world nothing was taken for granted and Israel was a diamond in their eyes.
As she grew older, Roz became very involved in Bnei Akiva, and recalls packing gift boxes for soldiers at the time of the Six-Day War. She watched her mother sitting in front of the television, crying, terrified of the potential results of the battles. Perhaps the seeds of her activism were nourished then. Roz believes that Zionism shaped her whole generation. Many of those in positions of leadership in the Jewish community today came out of that time, a time of pride and excitement and hope. Israel was in her blood, in her bones, a constant presence.
As Roz grew older, Israel moved slightly to the background. She was a fulltime professional at the Westside Jewish Community Center for 10 years, trying to infuse a greater sense of community and Jewish pride into its youngest members. She eventually left the JCC to pursue a career as a family therapist, a career she had to leave as stand with us began to grow. Prior to founding this all-consuming organization, Roz remained active on the boards of numerous other Jewish organizations.
Roz looked around and saw that not enough was being done. She knew she had to act.
Then came the Second Intifada, the kidnappings, the murders, the bombings and Israel moved to the forefront once again. Roz saw how misrepresented Israel was in the media. She saw that there was constant misinterpretation, that no one understood the hatred with which Palestinian children were being raised, that no one knew the facts on the ground. She saw that college campuses were woefully lacking in pro-Israel voices and information. And she saw that Jews were dying.
It says in Ethics of Our Fathers that in the place where there is no leader, strive to be a leader. Roz looked around and saw that not enough was being done. Everyone was paralyzed. She knew she had to act.
Roz, her husband, Jerry, and new friend, Esther Renzer mobilized local lay and rabbinic leadership (parlaying all those years on the board into useful connections) to stand behind Israel. Though a fledgling organization, there were rallies, demonstrations and on-campus lectures -- many of them. Roz and her new team of leaders spearheaded the research and creation of sophisticated yet clear materials presenting the facts. A campaign against misinformation, a campaign to arm Jews -- this time with facts, not weapons -- on behalf of the Jews in the land of Israel had been launched. With the outpouring of educational materials has come exponential growth for Stand with Us.
Education is the center of their mission. When there is significant anti-Israel press, Stand With Us prepares the antidote (See the pamphlet pointing out the fallacies in Walt & Mearsheimer's "The Israel Lobby.") They have placed 3500 books in libraries throughout the country in response to the American Library Association's anti-Israel bias. They are constantly churning out more pamphlets, more brochures, more information. Roz never stops (the Almighty has blessed her and her team of passionate partners with a prodigious amount of energy).
And the work continues. The organization now has an international presence. Last year alone they sent 150 speakers to different North American campuses. They have partnered with many other organizations including Honest Reporting, Hasbara Fellowships and Birthright. They now have 12 offices and/or chapters around the world.
Roz doesn't sleep much. She worries about the Jewish people and Israel, and the demands of the organization. She hopes that her children will benefit from witnessing her tremendous love for and dedication to Israel and the Jewish people.
Roz wants everyone to make it a priority to help people understand Israel's side of the story. And she has the drive and determination to succeed. Many of us see the problems facing Israel, but few of us act. Few of us are willing to pay the price -- in time, effort, energy. And those who do lift us all.