Jewish Community Holds Vigil for Hostages in Gaza

On November 10, around 150 members of the Jewish community held a vigil in Washington Park in Over The Rhine at an installation for the 240 hostages – including 30 children – who are being held in Gaza by Hamas. 

The installation is a Friday night Shabbat table, similar to other displays that have popped up in multiple cities worldwide. Its goal is to remind the world of the plight of the hostages. The table has 240 places set, along with posters of the Israelis that have been kidnapped. A small teddy bear marked each place setting for the children. 

These are “ extremely difficult times, but on the other hand, we see our ability to come together, persevere to be each other’s strengths. I think that’s the essence of Judaism,” said Avi Dave, a 25-year-old from Amberly village.

The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and Israeli members of the Cincinnati community organized the installation. The JCRC estimates that over 1,000 people viewed the installation throughout Friday; it was set up from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. 

Lainy Paul-Richler led the gathering in a short service that included an address by Israeli expats living in the community, a prayer for healing led by Rabbi Ezra Goldschmidt, and an address from Cincinnati Chaverim. The Chaverim are Israeli young adults who work for one year in the Cincinnati community to foster strong relations between the Jewish community and Israel. 

“This display is to show how this [issue] completely transcends any political debate, any conflict. We’re not here to talk politics; we’re here purely to put [hostages] into perspective,” said Paul-Richler. 

It has been over four weeks since the Oct. 7 terrorist attack that left over 1,400 Israelis dead and thousands more injured. So far, only four hostages have been released: an American mother and daughter and two elderly Israelis. The IDF also rescued one hostage. Hamas has not allowed the Red Cross to see the hostages.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated one of the goals of the Israeli invasion of Gaza is to secure the release of the hostages. As the fighting intensifies and the death toll in Gaza continues to climb, family members of hostages have called for a prisoner exchange, with many divided on the exact details even as many Israelis call for Netanyahu to resign. Some fear that Israel’s attack against Hamas may lead to the deaths of the hostages.

The Cincinnati vigil ended after the gathered crowd sang Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu, a song about bringing peace to the whole world, and Hatikvah, the national anthem of Israel. 

“We have to use our voices as responsibly as we can, collectively, and as intentionally as we can,” said Dave. “I think it’s important that people understand why we’re saying that what’s going on right now is important and unique and matters. We want peace, coexistence and harmony, and we’re not willing to give up on it.”