As the first candle of Hanukkah was lit last night, several hundred Jews blocked traffic in San Francisco. The swell of protestors engulfed the busy intersection of Powell Street and Market Street, and a four minute and twenty eight second long moment of silence was held, followed by a recital of the mourner’s kaddish.
This act of civil disobedience was part of #ChanukahAction, a national Jewish movement calling on Jews to support black liberation and end police violence throughout the eight days of Hanukkah.
The website acts as a hub for the various actions occurring in each city, provides a ritual toolkit, and supplies a list of principles and demands for those organizing actions. There is no single group that takes credit for the movement.
“Just like we asked pharaoh once to dismantle an unjust system, so too are we now, calling up on the pharaohs to dismantle our current racist system,” said Rabbi Michael Rothbaum, co-chair of the Bay Area Regional Council for Bend The Arc, one of the speakers at the protest.
The first night of Hanukkah saw large protests in 15 different cities across the country. Actions in each state differed slightly in their form and participation, but the message was uniform: to publicly mourn the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police and to further the political demands of Ferguson Action, a national organizational group.
Most protests involved listing the names of the deceased, holding respectful silence, and a group recital of the mourner’s kaddish.
In Brookline, Massachusetts, a group of nearly 300 protestors marched from Kehilath Israel Temple to Coolidge Corner, where they took over the intersection. In Brooklyn, Jewish protestors assembled at Barclay’s Center and held a candle-lit vigil at the 78th precinct, holding a large yellow banner that declared “Jews and Arabs Say: Black Lives Matter”. Cities such as Detroit, Philadelphia, Seattle and Durham, North Carolina also held protests.
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