TAMPA, Fla. — Leaders of Tampa Bay's Jewish community are speaking out about Saturday's attacks on Israel.

What You Need To Know

  • Many Jewish leaders in the Tampa Bay area spent Saturday concerned citizens and relatives in Israel after an attack that killed hundreds 

  • Spectrum News spoke with an American in Israel leading a group of students — they said the students spend the entire day in a bomb shelter

  • Local groups are forming relief efforts to help those impacted

Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the “Yom Kippur War” when the Arab coalition jointly launched a surprise attack against Israel in 1973.

What was supposed to be a Jewish holiday of celebration, Shemini Atzeret, has instead been one of deep concern for Maxine Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Florida’s Gulf Coast.

“My daughter sent me a text around 6:30 AM," Kaufman said. “She said it’s very scary what’s happening in Israel to which I went to look and find out what’s going on.”

What she found was a nation under surprise attack.

As word of the number of casualties continues to rise and the extent of damages increases, Spectrum News spoke via zoom with one American currently in Israel who’s shepherding a group of Jewish-American students, visiting and studying abroad.

“They spent the entire day in Jerusalem in a bomb shelter,” said Jewish National Fund-USA CEO Russell Robinson. “But I have to tell you they were in the bomb shelter doing what kids should be doing which is singing, dancing and enjoying each other even during the trauma.”

As for Kaufman, she's staying in touch with friends and family in Israel who are trying to keep a sense of normalcy during a time that is anything but normal.

“They go on with life,” she said. “But they are in the bomb shelters. The family lives outside of Tel Aviv, not the direct area, but they’re still hearing sirens.”

In the days ahead, Kaufman says they will be organizing relief efforts to help those impacted.