Israel-Hamas War Hits Close to Home for U.S. Gem & Jewelry Community

By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief

Jewelry and the Jewish people have been intertwined for centuries, and by some estimates, Jews account for at least half—if not more—of those working in the U.S. fine-jewelry industry. So, when Israel was attacked by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, many in the U.S. felt that pain because of ties to the only Jewish nation in the world.

Hamas gunmen stormed the Israeli kibbutz called Be’eri near Gaza at 6:30 in the morning, murdering residents, kidnapping others, and setting homes on fire. To date, 1,300 Israelis have lost their lives while 250 more, including some Americans, have been kidnapped. Thousands of innocent Palestinians have also lost their lives in the senseless violence and hatred.

Grandview Klein employee Isaac Siton and family members were among the murdered in the kibbutz. Many in the stateside jewelry industry mourn the tragedy.

“We have family in Israel,” says Rachel Chalchinsky of Color Source Gems. “Our middle son Dustin volunteered in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). We try to go once a year—we were just there in August—because it’s our connection to our Jewish homeland. It’s so hard to wrap our minds around this war.”

While Jack Abraham of the eponymous jewelry design firm wasn’t born in Israel, he lived there in his youth and has lots of family currently living there. Among them are siblings, cousins, and loads of nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews.

“They are all fine and some are in the army,” he says. “We’re sending messages of hope, that we support the independence of Israel and that we stand strong with the people of Israel and their safety.”

“There’s not a walking human being in Israel who has not been touched or affected,” comments Bellarri Adleman of jewelry maker Bellarri. “This is the Jewish 9-11 tenfold.”

Israel-Hamas War Hits Close to Home for U.S. Gem & Jewelry Community

With many friends and cousins in Israel, she and her husband do what they can from afar, including donating to the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) and posting messages of support on social media. However, the harsh reality of antisemitism stings, both in real life and online. After making a pro-Israel post, Adleman got hate mail from people claiming she “didn’t know what she was talking about.”

Sam Sulimanov of Samuel Sylvio Designs also experienced vitriol after a making a pro-Israel post—people attacked him in comments and direct messages, and he lost 500 followers. [Yours truly, too, lost 100 followers after making a pro-Israel post as well as garnering hateful comments.]

“I was born there, and I served in the IDF for three years,” he says. “Social media is powerful, and the silence of certain industry groups is disappointing.”

Industry support was first issued by the AGTA, Diamond Manufacturers and Importers Association of America (DMIA), the Diamond Dealers Club (DDC), and the Indian Diamond and Colorstone Association (IDCA). Others like CIBJO, the RJC, the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030, and Jewelers of America followed later with similar messages of sympathy and hope.

While some of the best support Israel is receiving is the many messages of support online, after that it’s in the form of donations to the IDF’s soldiers and reservists. The IDF supplies soldiers with gear to fight, but many of the reservists being summoned are less prepared.

“This is an unprecedented event,” says Afshin Hackman of Intercolor, who has close friends and family in Israel. “Israel was not prepared for 500,000 soldiers on active duty.”

To help, he and friends ordered 30 pairs of hunting gloves and sent them directly to a friend’s son’s unit in the fight. Sulimanov has also been fundraising for soldier basics like helmets, sending them to military and civilian groups he knows will get them to those in need. He’s also started a GoFundMe page to collect more to aid the fight in Israel against terrorism. Click here to donate.

In the meantime, everyone is eager to see the conflict end, especially since it’s affecting friends and family.

“My wife’s niece was one of the first responders that morning,” says Sulimanov. “She was among the first to arrive with special police, and because of what she heard on the radio, she put her helmet on in the car—which she doesn’t normally do. Gunfire came through the windshield and hit her helmet, eye, and arm. Police put her in a shelter for four hours while they were under fire and until they could get her to a hospital. She was badly injured but alive. She was on the news in Israel yesterday, telling them about her ordeal, and she wrote on Facebook that she was born again. This war is uniting Israel.”

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