New York Jewish Week — Thousands gathered next to Central Park in New York City on Monday night for a vigil and rally marking 30 days since Hamas’s October 7 massacres in southern Israel.
Speakers at the event, held along Central Park West on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, mourned the attack’s 1,400 victims, demanded the release of the more than 240 hostages held in Gaza and decried rampant antisemitism in the US in recent weeks. Organizers estimated the crowd size at around 12,000 people.
Participants carried photos of the hostages and signs reading “Bring our children home,” “Let my people go,” and “We stand with Israel.”
Thousands streamed past police cruisers on their way to the event, chanting “Bring them home” and singing Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah.”
Hamas terrorists launched an unprecedented onslaught inside Israel on October 7 by bursting through the Gaza border, killing over 1,400 people — most of them civilians, slaughtered in their homes — and abducting over 240 to Gaza.
Speakers included Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Daniel Goldman, both Jewish Democrats; actors Brett Gelman and Debra Messing; and two relatives of hostages. Israeli singers Gad Elbaz and Idan Raichel performed for the audience.
The rally occurred around the 30-day milestone that traditionally marks the end of an acute Jewish mourning period, known as shloshim, following a death. It happened a little more than a week before a mass pro-Israel is due to take place on the National Mall in Washington DC.
That rally will also call for the release of the hostages, decry antisemitism and cheer on continued American support for Israel as it fights a war against Hamas in Gaza, with the aim of deposing the terror group.
Ofri Haggai, an Israeli whose aunt and uncle were shot and taken hostage by Hamas, told the crowd, “All I’m asking from anyone who can help us is to bring all the hostages home.”
“They are not part of any conflict, they are not part of any war, they are civilians, babies, kids, mothers, fathers, grandparents who just want to be brought home safely,” she said.
Haggai knows only that her aunt and uncle were badly injured and kidnapped. She does not know if they have received any medical care or their whereabouts, she said.
Goldman decried a “small but very loud fringe” in Congress that has opposed Israel since the attack, and urged the crowd to keep demonstrating to shore up support for the country. His mention of US President Joe Biden, who has firmly supported Israel, drew cheers from the crowd.
“Every opportunity you have to rally, to express your support for Israel, I promise you it matters,” he said.
The event was led by the UJA Federation New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, and was co-sponsored by an array of Jewish groups including the Israeli American Council, the Anti-Defamation League, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Orthodox Union.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.