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Community united at Downing Street vigil for the hostages

More than 1,500 people from across the Jewish community, and beyond, came together in a vigil to support the 133 hostages still held captive in Gaza.

Taking place opposite Downing Street, crowd members were visibly moved as the families of those taken and murdered by Hamas spoke about the pain and suffering they and others in Israel are going through.

The rally was addressed by the leaders of all of Britain’s Jewish denominations, including Progressive Judaism Co-Leads Rabbi Charley Baginsky and Josh Levy – who called for the return of the hostages and reflected on the six months since 7 October.

You can read the full speech from Rabbis Josh and Charley below:

Many of us were gathered here together on 9 October. On that evening we stood together in trauma and grief, united as British Jews in a shared experience of mourning and horror at the actions of Hamas. We joined with others across the world – Jewish and not – in a moment of togetherness.

Six months – over 180 days – later, we gather yet again – still in sadness and in trauma, still with our lives deeply affected by the events of that day and still with over 100 hostages in captivity in Gaza.

Since that time much has changed. Much has changed in Israel and Gaza, and also much has changed within us and between us. We have become more fractured – as individuals, as communities and as a world. We have seen the events of October 7 spread to impact on the people of Gaza, too: As Jews we must work to ensure our hearts are open to their suffering too, even as we feel the still-pressing need of our own loved ones.

At the same time, we are suspended in October 7 – the trauma has not ended, the hostages have not been redeemed – we are still caught in the moment which is always with us – surrounded by the images of pain, loss and destruction, and forever aware of the plight of those still in captivity.

As Jews we look to rituals to transport us from one place to another. This is profoundly present in those rituals associated with death and grieving; burial, the shiva, the shloshim, shanah – each moment counting the time and taking us, the mourners, into a new stage of our grief and remembrance.

As a community we have reached half of a year without any sense of moving on – with no ritual to transport us to a new phase, no sense of transition. We are suspended in the liminality of this time.

At the heart of our suspension in the moment of 7 October is the fate of the hostages – whose absence their families and friends feel every day. And not only their loved ones – all of us wake each day to the knowledge that they are still there.

From that day, our communities began to pray for their redemption, including prayers for their release in our services. 26 Shabbatot later we continue to do so.

As Jews we believe our prayers matter – they matter because we know that praying together can make a difference – to us and to the world.

There is no ritual to accompany a six months – but by gathering today we create a ritual that unites us – we name our continuing pain, and create a moment when we can see each other, support one another, and give each other strength.

And so, to our prayer for this moment. According to legend, the second century Sage Nechunya ben Hakkana wrote the words Anna B’cho’ach which are now included in our liturgy:

“Please, by the great power of your right hand, set the captive free; Almighty God, accept the song, the prayer, of Your people.

“Eternal God, we pray for the release of captives, for the rebuilding of the homes of all of those displaced, for the safe passage of aid so those who are hungry can eat, for understanding and compassion between communities here and around the world, for the possibility of a tomorrow that we can all believe in, for peace in Israel and Gaza.

“Almighty God, accept the prayer of Your people. And let us say Amen.”

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