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Empty Shabbat Table project
Photograph: Courtesy of Caroline Hadjibay

An empty table will be installed on the Upper West Side today calling for the release of Israeli hostages

The installation took over Times Square earlier this week.

Anna Rahmanan
Written by
Anna Rahmanan

Almost exactly three weeks after Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and took over 220 hostages into Gaza, a new installation calling for the release of said prisoners will be set up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Today from noon to 5pm, an empty dinner table will be installed on the south side of West 81st Street between Columbus Avenue and Central Park, reminding citizens that the captives will not be with their families for yet another Shabbat, the weekly Jewish day of rest. 

The exhibit, which took over Times Square earlier this week, is modeled after an almost identical one that was installed in the plaza outside of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel last week.

Since that first showing in the Middle East, the project has been replicated all over the world, including Rome, Los Angeles and Sydney.

At many of those installations, the 224 chairs on display were plastered with posters of the missing people, part of another project referred to as Kidnapped that has also taken on a life of its own in cities across the globe. Each sheet features a hostage photo alongside their name, age and a description of what likely happened to them on October 7 in Israel.

Refreshingly, given the high tension that the current Hamas-Israel war is fueling all around the globe, the Upper West Side iteration of the "Empty Shabbat Table" project is sponsored by a variety of entities that run the gamut when it comes to religious affiliation. They include the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the UJA Federation of New York, B'nai Jeshurun, Ansche Chesed, the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan and council member Gale Brewer.

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