A coalition of Jewish groups are planning to flood Columbus Circle in Manhattan on Thursday evening in a protest for an Israeli ceasefire in Gaza to kick off a planned Hanukkah “week of action” for Palestinian rights.
Organizers are expecting over 500 Jewish New Yorkers and allies to attend the protest, which falls on the two-month anniversary of Israel’s current genocidal assault of Gaza and Hamas forces’ attack on October 7, as well as the first night of Hanukkah.
The protest is being led by Rabbis 4 Ceasefire, an ad hoc group organized to oppose Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, and is co-organized by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNot and Shoresh. Organizers are encouraging people to bring their own menorahs for the protest at 5pm Eastern time.
Protesters will gather to mourn lives lost, pray, fight for Palestinian liberation and light the first candles of Hanukkah, according to a news release from organizers. They are calling for an end to Israel’s massacre of Palestinians, the release of all hostages, Palestinian or Israeli, and an end to Israel’s apartheid.
“Tonight marks the first night of Chanukah. What is supposed to be a holiday falls exactly two months after Hamas’ horrific October 7th attack, meaning it also marks two months of Israel’s ongoing horrific assault on Gaza, which escalates every day,” said Sophie Ellman-Golan, communications director for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, in a statement to Truthout. “It has been too much to bear, watching the death toll rise daily — in our name, funded by our tax dollars. It feels impossible to celebrate, and essential that we come together as a Jewish community, with our neighbors and allies.”
Activists and well-known figures and faith leaders are slated to join, including actor Wallace Shawn, Jewish writer Peter Beinart, activist Linda Sarsour, and Rabbi Abby Stein. New York City Council Members Tiffany Cabán and Shahana Hanif are also expected to participate.
The protest is one of numerous actions across the country over the past weeks calling for a ceasefire, with massive demonstrations drawing hundreds of thousands of Americans together in calls for an end to the genocide. There has also been an outpouring of support for Palestinian liberation in the form of letters signed by thousands of activists, Biden administration officials and workers, all calling on President Joe Biden to support a ceasefire.
With the first night of Hanukkah on Thursday, some Jewish advocates and faith leaders have been calling on the community to hold space for Palestinians in their celebrations; some figures in the community have been calling for such solidarity with Palestinians for many years.
“When we look at the horrifying, ongoing death and destruction in Gaza or address the massacre of Israelis on October 7, we can see all the ways in which dehumanization feeds dehumanization. But seeing the divine in everyone allows us to fully access our own humanity,” said Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, a member of Rabbis 4 Ceasefire, in a statement to Truthout. “As we bring the light of Chanukah into the world, may we see the divine in all human beings and may we fight for the dignity of all Palestinians and Israelis.”