By Milan Perera, Deputy Editor
The Bristol Jewish community, along with members of other faiths and backgrounds, gathered Sunday, October 15 at College Green to commemorate the victims of recent acts of violence in Israel.
The vigil was organised by the Bristol Jewish community in response to the recent events unfolded on the morning of Saturday, October 7 when a surprise offensive attack by Hamas fell on a number of Israeli towns and settlements after the end of the Jewish feast of Sukkot.
The vigil began around 3.00 p.m. with a moment of silence as attendees lit candles and placed them in a formation of the Star of David with the photos of the victims of the recent violence.
Speakers from the Bristol Jewish community addressed the gathering, emphasising the importance of solidarity, tolerance, and peace.
The organiser of the event, an Israeli student, shared testimonies from her family friends, including a 22-year-old male who was killed at the Supernova music festival on October 7 and an 8-year-old girl who was killed while staying at a friend’s house.
Rabbi Mendy Singer of Chabad of Bristol spoke on how the Jewish community can feel like they are contributing through their prayers and donating to organisations in Israel to ameliorate the situation. He also led the prayers of Mourners Kaddish for those who have been killed.
Other members of the community shared their thoughts in spoken words and poems. Valerie Russell Emmott of Bristol & West Progressive Jewish Congregation was also present at the event.
There were also non-Jewish attendees who were present at the vigil to show their support.
Shiri Kleinberg, a Jewish student at the University of Bristol who took part in the vigil said: ‘Coming together as a community has been a really powerful way to respond to the tragedies that have shaken us all. We all feel a personal sense of loss, fear, helplessness and sadness.
‘The worldwide Jewish community feels the pain of Israel as we all feel connected no matter how spread out we are or whether or not we know the victims personally. We come together to uplift each other, while also paying our respects to the dead and praying for the safety of the soldiers and hostages.
‘It’s a scary time to be Jewish anywhere in the world right now. We are battling with a huge increase in antisemitism… Our response is not anger or protest or to run and hide. Our response is to stand proud as a Jewish community and pray for peace and safety in the form of song and prayer.’
The vigil took place at the same venue where a solidarity march was held a day before for the Palestinian victims of the recent escalation of violence in the region.
The vigil at College Green was preceded by a private vigil held for the Jewish students at the University of Bristol on Tuesday, October 10. The event was organised by the University of Bristol Jewish Student Society (JSoc) which saw a large attendance gather for prayers, songs and reflection. Jewish students from various strands gathered for the vigil in solidarity with the citizens of Israel.
Harry Isaacs, President of JSoc led the vigil with psalms and prayers. He shared his thoughts on what Jewish community have been going through and how to stay strong as a group. While there was a sombre and dignified mood throughout the event, it was one of strength and solidarity as well.
Speaking to Epigram, Harry Isaacs said: ‘We had over 130 people packed into the house for an uplifting and emotional night of memorial, community and singing.
‘This was our opportunity to come together as one Jewish Student community to stand in solidarity with our homeland to remember our brothers and sisters that we have lost, and to pray for our family and friends in Israel.’
Editor's note: In an earlier version of this article we stated, ‘As a sign of solidarity from the Bristol Anglican community, the church bells at the Bristol Cathedral tolled during the vigil.’ The bellringing was unrelated to the vigil and was part of a Sunday service at the Cathedral. We apologise for this error.
Featured image: Shiri Kleinberg
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