Lua Prado, Contributing Photographer

Over 250 Jewish protestors and allies rallied outside of City Hall last Wednesday to urge local elected officials to back a cease-fire in Gaza.

The protest was led by the New Haven Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, one of the largest Jewish anti-Zionist organizations in the world, and the Mending Minyan Solidarity Committee, a local Jewish community organization. During the hour-long rally, speakers read letters directed to New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro urging them to call for a cease-fire and send humanitarian aid to Gaza. Protestors also marched to DeLauro’s office at the corner of Elm Street and Orange Street. 

“It is our sacred task as Jews in the U.S. to fight for the humanity of all, to not let rage set it’s  blindfold upon us,” Mikveh Warshaw, a co-founder of Mending Minyan, said in her speech. “We demand that the U.S. does not fuel this fire with more violent rhetoric, more guns, more bombs, and more dollars for blood. No one is safe under apartheid, under colonization. Genocide saves no one. Zionism does not protect Jewish people. Israel does not defend Judaism. If we want to protect Jews, then we need to create intersectional communities everywhere that we are.” 

Violence in Israel and Gaza began when Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and killed at least 1,400 Israelis, according to reporting by the Associated Press that cites Israeli officials. Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza and a formal declaration of war against Hamas. The Associated Press reported Tuesday evening that the Hamas-run Health Ministry has said that Israel’s attacks have killed at least 5,791 Palestinians in Gaza. United Nations officials have called these attacks an “unprecedented catastrophe” and “collective punishment” in violation of international law.

After Hamas launched its attack earlier this month, Israel responded with a “complete siege” of Gaza. According to the Associated Press, the 2.3 million residents of Gaza are running out of basic supplies — including food, water and medicine — due to the blockade. 

Participants chanted throughout the protest and were greeted with occasional honks from passing cars. They carried signs reading “Jews say: Stop the Genocide,” “Stop killing the Palestinians: cut the billion to Israel,” “End the occupation” and “Free Palestine.”

Shelly Altman, a leader with Jewish Voice for Peace, gave a speech in front of City Hall and called out Elicker’s Oct. 11 letter, in which the Mayor grieved the lost life of Israelis murdered in Hamas’ attack. Altman criticized Elicker for not mentioning Palestinian deaths.

In the letter, Elicker wrote that he “unequivocally condemn[ed] terrorism” against both Israelis and Palestinians.

“So what now?” Altman asked rally attendees. “If the murder of Palestinians that happened over and over again in Gaza, in the West Bank and in Jerusalem, if it was going to make Jews safe in Israel and around the world then they would already be safe. So what they are doing now is not going to make Jews safe.”

Altman then led a call-and-response chat with the crowd of: “What do we want?” “Cease-fire!” “When do we want it?” “Now!” 

In an interview on Tuesday, Elicker told the News that he is proud of the many historical instances in which city leadership has called out injustices, and that he believes he was doing so by addressing the tragedy of the Hamas attack. 

“A war is an awful, awful thing, and while Israel has the right to defend itself, it also has the responsibility to do everything possible to minimize any civilian casualties,” Elicker said. ”We’re all praying and hoping for the safety of every civilian, whether Palestinian or Israeli, in this tragic conflict.” 

Katherine Breer told the News that she drove an hour from her home to participate in the rally. She said that she is neither Jewish nor Palestinian but that the issue feels personal for her because she has lived in the West Bank twice for six weeks at a time while visiting her son.

Breer said that Americans should read more and travel more to better understand the conflict.

“It’s humiliating to see injustice on a daily basis at checkpoints, to see what it actually looks like to have illegal settlements in the West Bank, so I’m talking about the occupation,” Breer said. “I don’t think we have a good concept in the United States that the two-state solution concept is disappearing as settlers take more and more land.”

Allan Bryson, a former alder for East Rock and member of the Green Party also told the News that he wants to urge the U.S. to stop funding Israel, saying DeLauro’s support for the funding was “terrible.” He was holding a sign that said “shame” with pictures of DeLauro and Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy. 

The U.S. sends $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel every year. 

Unison Kelner, another rally attendee, also expressed frustration with DeLauro’s response to the conflict.

“I came out to basically tell Rosa DeLauro that we need her to listen to us.”  Kelner said. “I feel like the most important thing for all of us in the U.S. to do is to let our voices be heard about what we think about what our government is doing by providing arms and money to the Israeli military.” 

In an email to the News, DeLauro restated her support for Israel. 

She also said that she is working to ensure that Palestinians in Gaza receive humanitarian aid and that her “ultimate goal” is for peace and a two-state solution to end the conflict.

“Israel has our unequivocal support as they seek to defeat Hamas,” DeLauro wrote. “While they engage in that effort, they should take every precaution to protect innocent lives. Palestinians have also lost communities and even loved ones because of Hamas’s atrocities. That Hamas militias were firing rockets right by a hospital, which confirms that the status quo is not tenable. Everyone will be hurt if Hamas remains in control of Gaza.” 

City Hall is located at 165 College St.

Laura Ospina covers Yale-New Haven relations and the Latine community for the City desk. Originally from North Carolina's Research Triangle, she is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Political Science.
Lua Prado covers education & youth services and immigration & international communities in New Haven and writes the Tuesday Newsletter. Originally from Sergipe, Brazil, she is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College, double majoring in Political Science and English.