Pictures by Gili Getz; text by Salem Pearce
On Sunday, more than 1,000 Jews in New York converged on Amazon’s bookstore in Midtown Manhattan to protest the company’s role in supporting the efforts of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to terrorize immigrant communities.
On Tisha B’av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, activists filled and then shut down the retail location while performing ritual associated with the holiday’s themes of mourning and destruction. In between chanting Eicha, participants dressed in black — many wearing tallit and tefillin — shared testimonies from children detained at the southern border. One of the rabbis got choked up as she read an account from a migrant detention center in Texas: “I’m hungry here at Clint all the time. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with hunger.” Periodically the crowd answered back to the readings, quoting Eicha, “My tears fall without cease!”
Forty-four Jews, including 11 rabbis and New York City Councilmember Brad Lander, were arrested by NYPD when they refused to leave the store, remaining seated on the floor and singing songs like “Gesher Tzar Me’od.” It took a requisitioned city bus to take them all into custody. As they were led out of the store, a crowd of hundreds sang and chanted “Close the camps! Never Again is Now!” Outrageously, many of the arrestees were later assigned court dates on Rosh Hashanah, which is a recognized holiday in New York City.
The action was organized locally by Jews For Racial and Economic Justice and Make The Road New York, as one of more than 50 Tisha B’av #CloseTheCamps events around the country that day organized by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights in partnership with NCJW, Bend the Arc, HIAS, the RAC, J Street, and Torah Trumps Hate.
Rabbi Shai Held, who taught a text study at the nearby Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, from which the march began, said, “Tisha B’Av is a time for mourning destruction and devastation. Sadly, unconscionably, this year, destruction and devastation are all around us. We have a tremendous amount to mourn—the relentless assault on the most basic values of empathy and decency; the cruelty daily enacted in our name; the metastasization of racism and antisemitism in our country. We mourn, but we are also here today to say that beyond mourning, we will fight.”