Empty seder table poignantly highlights missing places for 133 hostages this Pesach

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Empty seder table poignantly highlights missing places for 133 hostages this Pesach

Family members and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis among speakers at 350-strong event in central London on Wednesday.

  • Pic: EJacobs Photography
    Pic: EJacobs Photography
  • Shai Shojat, the nephew of hostage Michel Nisenbaum. Pic: EJacobs Photography
    Shai Shojat, the nephew of hostage Michel Nisenbaum. Pic: EJacobs Photography
  • Pic: EJacobs Photography
    Pic: EJacobs Photography

One hundred and thirty three empty seats at a meticulously planned seder table set the poignant scene for a vigil in central London on Wednesday afternoon.

More than 350 members of the media and Jewish community attended a solidarity event organised by The UK Hostages Families Forum in Richmond’s Terrace, opposite Downing Street, to witness the unveiling of The Empty Seder Table.

The installation featured 133 empty chairs, each one representing a hostage in Gaza, ranging from those for infants to elders in their 80s.

Each chair, including two high chairs for children, had a poster attached bearing the face of a person still in captivity.

Pic: EJacobs Photography

The UK Hostages & Missing Families Forum said the Empty Seder Table installation is a “poignant reminder of the individuals who remain separated from their families this Passover”.

Pic: EJacobs Photography

Co-organizer Nivi Feldman said: “The hostages were dragged into Gaza into conditions no one should endure. The suffering they’ve been going through for six months now, no one should endure.

“The Jewish people are waiting for them to come back home. This Pesach, I know I will see myself as if I’m in Gaza today with them and I will feel that a part of me is captive in Gaza.”

Pic: EJacobs Photography

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “In the lead up to Passover in any other year, if anyone would have told us there would be a long seder table facing the entrance to Downing Street, we would have celebrated. We would have said ‘that’s wonderful’. That it’s a public display of our Jewish identity. But right now as we view this Seder table with 133 empty chairs, our hearts are broken.”

Shai Shojat, the nephew of hostage Michel Nisenbaum, kidnapped on October 7 while on his way to pick up his granddaughter to take her to her mother, also spoke at the event.

Pic: Michelle Rosenberg

Speaking to Jewish News, he said: “We’ve come here to just try and touch people’s hearts, maybe someone in the government, maybe an influencer. Just raise our voices make a difference. They can’t go on for much longer. They will not survive”.

Israel advocate Jonny Daniels, who also addressed the crowd, told Jewish News: “It’s remarkable to see Jews and non-Jews alike coming together to show solidarity and make sure none of us forget our 133 brothers and sisters being held in the most horrendous conditions by Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Especially poignant was seeing this seder table, days before we all sit with our families remembering being brought out Egypt, we think of those being held in captivity in Gaza and our brave soldiers, our heroes fighting for not just our freedom, but for all of western civilization on the front lines.”

  • The Empty Seder Table will now be installed at JW3 in central London.
  • Picture credit: EJacobs Photography
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