If you have felt distraught these past weeks seeing the reactions to Hamas’ horrific attacks that took 1400 Israeli lives and over 200 hostages, as well as to Israel’s brutal ongoing siege on Gaza that has taken 6000 Palestinian lives—and counting—you are not alone.

We are in a truly bleak moment. It feels like some of the basic values we thought we all agreed on have been shattered. It feels like so many people are defending violence. In this moment, to be Jewish and to be Leftist is to be extraordinarily loving and brave: to find a transformative pathway towards a better world, no matter how dim it appears.

The details coming out about the October 7th attacks are absolutely gutting. The scale of violence we are currently witnessing in Gaza is unimaginable. From our phones, we are watching war crimes carried out in real time—justified, enabled, supported, and denied by world leaders, US politicians, major media outlets, and many in our Jewish community.

This is the impossible task we all have before us right now: to not allow our hearts to harden; to remain steadfast against war and violence; to refuse to turn away from each other's humanity at this time when there is immense pressure to do exactly that. It is not fair that we have to do this while enduring so much loss. It is not fair, but it is necessary.

So where does this leave us? What can we do?

First, one of our jobs is to build support for the following demands: Ceasefire now. Release the hostages. Let in humanitarian aid. End the occupation and apartheid. This is what is necessary to save the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Explicitly supporting the demands for a ceasefire AND hostage release should not be a brave or lonely stance to take, but it is. There are some who have sought to make the principled anti-war, pro-peace call for a ceasefire into a third rail. We will not let them. We have proudly joined with fellow Jews for Ceasefire, and we urge you to call your congress member and urge them to sign onto Rep. Cori Bush’s #CeasefireNOW resolution. More and more people every day are joining in this call.

Second, if you have been moved by JFREJ’s words and actions these past few weeks, if you have been on the streets with us, found moral clarity with us, are desperately looking for a community where we believe that all human life is truly sacred and that Palestinians and Israelis deserve freedom and safety, we invite you to join us: Become a JFREJ member today.

Finally, for JFREJ members, what is in our immediate control is our city, which is brimming with tension and fear. Last week, 40 JFREJ members got on a Zoom call to brainstorm tangible, local work we can do in this moment. Here’s what we came up with together, and are starting to build on:

  1. Building a Muslim-Jewish safety brigade: JFREJ is working with our friends at Malikah, the Center for Anti-violence Education, and more to build a rapid-response squad of NYC Muslims and Jews who can provide protection and deescalation at anti-war protests, synagogues/mosques, and other emergent threats. Stay tuned for more, and email kelly@jfrej.org if you want to get involved.

  2. Leaning on our ritual and cultural traditions: We have millennia of Jewish wisdom, art, religious ritual, and prayer to draw upon. A group of JFREJ members came together to write a beautiful prayer for these desperate times as an offering. If you daven regularly, you can recite it daily. You can use it at vigils, protests, in synagogue. JFREJ members are also self-organizing via neighborhood groups to hold Shabbat dinners and do Havdalah, to come together and discuss what is happening, sit in our discomfort and name our contradictions, and find ways to move forward within our families, Jewish communities, and Left political spaces.

  3. Showing up in the streets: We are sharing information about different vigils and actions taking place throughout the city, and members are consistently turning out en masse to join in public protests calling for a ceasefire and to release the hostages. Today, JFREJ will gather at 5pm in midtown for a vigil to mourn the thousands of lives lost these past few weeks. Please email alicia@jfrej.org if you would like to join.

  4. Speaking out, even when our voices shake: We can use our voices to demand a ceasefire, humanitarian aid, and immediate hostage release. These demands are not in conflict; they go hand-in-hand. We have to demonstrate this, constantly. Already, some of our closest and most courageous elected officials are using their voices to take up our demands in tandem. Click here and swipe through to see three powerful videos of State Assembly Members Phara Souffrant Forrest and Alexa Avilés, and City Council Member Tiffany Cabán doing exactly this at a rally last Friday.

  5. Exerting caution around headlines and social media posts designed to activate our fears: It feels hard to know what news to trust these days. We are all on edge and hyper-reactive. The reality is that much of the media we consume is designed to make us jump to conclusions, to confirm our worst fears, and make us afraid for our own safety. It is our responsibility to take a beat, learn more, and focus on our primary tasks: Not letting our hearts harden. Doing all we can to prevent further loss of life. Making possible a shared future for all of us, here in NYC and in Israel-Palestine.

It is hard to imagine the possibility of a shared future. But we see glimpses of it: in the family members of those murdered or kidnapped by Hamas, who reject calls for vengeance; in the courageous and compassionate actions of Standing Together – a movement of Jewish & Palestinian citizens of Israel — who are facing arrest and police violence for condemning the siege on Gaza and expressing solidarity with each other; in our Palestinian friends and partners, who continue to speak about a shared future for Jews and Palestinians while desperately trying to prevent their people being bombed, starved, and dehumanized at an unthinkable scale; in our Muslim friends and partners who continue to call out efforts to minimize Hamas’ attacks while remaining focused on demanding a ceasefire and end to apartheid; in each other, and in you, as we hold fast to our humanity and refuse to let go.

We will see the pain of those whose pain we do not want to see. We will mourn every single life lost. We will do all we can to stop further loss of life. Palestinians in Gaza need humanitarian aid NOW. Israeli hostages need to be returned NOW. There needs to be a ceasefire NOW. May all our hearts soften enough to hold each other, and to make all of these demands together.

In solidarity, always.