The code red siren blaring in Israel hit close to home for Rabbi Adam Starr.
His wife and daughter were visiting the Jewish state Tuesday, where Israelis have been darting for cover from daily Hamas rocket fire.
Starr breathed easy after he got off the phone with his wife.
"She's in Jerusalem," said Starr, leader of Young Israel of Toco Hills in Atlanta. "She called me to tell me she is OK."
But he and others in his congregation and across the country remain anxious over the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.
"We all have many friends and family in Israel," Starr said, referring to his congregants. "We're seeing on Facebook and Twitter our good friends and what they are going through, the complexities in trying to explain this to their young children."
Starr's angst underscores the close bonds between the American Jewish community and Israel, a relationship that predates the founding of the Jewish state in 1948.
American Jews long have felt an affinity for Israel as a bulwark against anti-Semitism and a refuge for a people escaping persecution and surviving the Holocaust.
Since its 1948 founding, Israel has fought wars with its Arab neighbors and the Palestinians.
Conflict after conflict, U.S. Jewish groups and Jewish citizens have wielded grass-roots political clout to garner American support for Israel.
The bonds are underscored by their size. The world's largest Jewish community is in Israel at nearly 6 million people, according to estimates. The U.S. Jewish community is the second most populous at an estimated 5 million plus.
After Israel kicked off its offensive last week to stop Hamas rockets on Israeli communities, Starr and others in the U.S. Jewish community sent an SOS across the United States: Help Israelis. Send donations. Demonstrate for the Jewish state. Let our brothers and sisters in Israel know they're not alone.
Jewish groups staged rallies in cities across the United States, including Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. More than $5 million in pledges to help the battered southern Israel communities have poured in. Jewish leaders have traveled to Israel to show their support.
"You've seen a startling consensus," said Omri Ceren, a senior adviser with the Israel Project, a pro-Israel information group, from the right to the left from secular/cultural to religious groups."
Ceren said things were different when Israel launched its Cast Lead offensive in Gaza in December 2008 when, he said, not all American Jews were on board.
"There was naïveté in parts of the Jewish community to the effect that maybe President Bush's unpopularity and his refusal to appease" rejectionist Palestinian elements blocked peace.
After four years of continued hostility, he said, there is more of a clear-eyed view of the perceived motives of Hamas, regarded by the United States and Israel as a terrorist group that is backed by Iran.
The 2008-09 operation failed to loosen Hamas' hold on power in Gaza. The militant rocket attacks from the territory ramped up year by year.
Hamas remained staunchly anti-Israel and Israel's economic blockade to choke off the delivery of weapons from abroad has generated grass-roots support for the militant group.
"Now that naivete has become impossible to justify," Ceren said. "The claim that Hamas can be peeled away from Iran doesn't pass the laugh test."
Israel has massed troops at the Gaza border, and has threatened a ground offensive. Even though American Jews widely support Israel's right to defend itself from rocket fire coming from Gaza, there is disagreement about the best way to do that. Prior to the recently announced cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, there was much hand-wringing over the wisdom of Israeli ground troops re-entering Gaza.
Some hope a ground war will be avoided, but it's a hard call.
"It seems to be a no-win situation," said Max Rosenthal, active in the small Jewish community of Huntsville, Alabama.
Israel can't live with thousands of rockets coming in every single day. And it faces the challenge of trying to thwart Hamas without killing "huge amounts of people."
"If we go in with a truce, it'll be OK for a few months, then they'll start over again, they'll get more rockets in."