Empty Shabbat Table Installation Commemorates Hostages taken by Hamas

Inspired by the installation done in Tel-Aviv, local UWS synagogues and other organizations came together to organize the empty Shabbat table located outside of the American Museum of Natural History with a seat for every one of the 220 hostages.

| 27 Oct 2023 | 05:19

While war is brewing in the middle east, in the Upper East Side people are honoring the hostages that Hamas terrorists have taken.

The installation contained more than 10 tables fitting 220 chairs with white table cloths and flowers to represent purity according to Judaism beliefs. There was also grape juice and wine, Challah bread that typically starts off the meal in Jewish traditions, plates, candles, and sippy cups for the children that were taken as hostages.

Jenna Hirsh, member of the B’nai Jeshurun Synagogue, said she got the idea to bring the installation to New York when a cousin of hers sent her a video of the one done in Tel Aviv.

“The giant table with nobody sitting there waiting for a big dinner really touched my heart and I’ve been looking for a peaceful way to get engaged in this process and to bring to the forefront the victims that are currently with terrorists.”

Rabbi Shuli Passow from B’nai Jeshurun Synagogue told Straus News, “I hope people who have still not understood the enormity of this hostage crisis will have a sense of that from walking by.”

As the interview took place, hundreds of people walked by the installation to look, take pictures, and or read the posters of the individuals who were taken as hostages. One of the posters showed three-year-old Israeli twin girls, Emma and Yuli Cunio. The empty chair next to them is for their mom, Sharon Alony Cunio who was also kidnapped.

One woman with her son walked by and said, ‘“Let’s find Omer.”’ It seemed clear that she knew one of the hostages.

So far, the empty Shabbat table installation has been replicated in other cities including Washington D.C, Los Angeles, Paris, and Sydney, Australia, and organizers said they hope the worldwide outpouring of support brings some comfort to the families who are still missing a loved one.

“I think that it is possible to distinguish between this situation and what is going on politically. I think whatever your political views are, I hope everyone can agree that taking kids, elderly people, sick people and taking them hostage from their families is totally inhumane,” said Rabbi Shuli Passow.

The youngest hostage taken was a nine month old.

Congressman Jerry Nadler made an appearance. “It’s a very nice gesture. We do what we can, this is what we can do...Hamas has taken 200 and some hostages. One presumes they have a purpose for them. They didn’t just kill them. One presumes they want to trade them for something.” He went on to say, “That is their [Hamas] charter by the way–it’s not liberation of Palestine, it’s elimination of Israel and murder of all the Jews.”

Another of the hostages is a 70 year-old man, Luis Norberto har who is photographed smiling at the camera holding a newborn baby.

As New Yorkers walk by, men and women huddle in groups together crying. Among the crowd is Council member Gale Brewer who talks about the families of the hostages she was able to talk to. “When you talk to the families and put the table together, it’s even worse, I started crying.” She said, “ I think this is more powerful than a protest.”

Alma Or, a 13 year-old Israeli was another one of the kids kidnapped by Hamas.

Rabbi Passow said all she wants is to “bring them home.”