April 11, 2024
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Livingston Reminds the World: ‘Our Family’ Are Still Hostages

Among the children in attendance was 8-year-old Natalie.

The handmade sign was full of hearts, color and love. Its message was simple: “Am Yisrael Chai” and “Bring them home now.”

And it was, in many respects, the whole reason 100 people gathered outside the Livingston Town Hall just before Shabbat on Feb. 9 to remind the world of what is at stake 5,700-plus miles away.

“It’s important for us to be here so people don’t forget that there are still hostages being held in Gaza by Hamas. It’s also important that we continue to show people that Israel has a right to defend itself and will not succumb to terrorism,” said Ilene Cohen, who created the sign and who carried it during the rally with her young daughter Yael.

Involving Yael, said Cohen, was a concrete way to reinforce and show that “we don’t just talk about helping each other” but actually do so and that “at every age we have the opportunity to do something to help others.”

Yael and Ilene Cohen with their handmade sign reminding everyone that the nation of Israel lives.

Another young attendee was 8-year-old Natalie who came to “support Israel because I am Jewish and Israel is a great country.” Carrying an Israeli flag and a sign that said “Bring them home” which also featured American and Israeli flags, Natalie said that she hasn’t been to Israel “but I’ve always wanted to go. There are a lot of great people there.”

This was the second communal gathering in as many weeks on an erev Shabbat. The previous event on Jan. 26 included a table set for Shabbat with photos of the hostages placed at every seat and an empty high chair for baby Kfir Bibas, who turned 1 in captivity.

This time around, dozens of chairs were placed in rows on the grounds outside town hall. Photos of the hostages were on the front and back of each chair. And in the center were two seats, one for Kfir and his 4-year-old brother Ariel.

A high chair and booster seat for the youngest of the hostages, Kfir and Ariel Bibas. Their fate remains unknown.

Speaking to the crowd, Rabbi James Proops of Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center in Livingston said that the Torah commands that we do not give up.

“We cannot allow the world to be distracted. Terrorists are still keeping our family, our children, our grandchildren, our parents, our grandparents hostage,” he said. “May God answer our prayers soon with the release of the hostages” and the end of the terror.

Chair after chair after chair, each a tangible reminder of those who are still being held hostage.

Faygie Holt is an award-winning journalist whose articles have been published worldwide and translated into several different languages. She is also the author of two middle-grade book series for Jewish children, “The Achdus Club” and “Layla’s Diaries,” both available from Menucha Publishers. A third series is set to be released in fall of 2024. Learn more at faygieholt.com.

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