Members and supporters of Jewish Voice for Peace Rhode Island (JVP) gathered on the south side of Burnside Park, facing Kennedy Plaza, holding signs and forming a Living Menorah. This same event was happening across the country, in 35 different places. “We will use this symbol from the Festival of Lights to rekindle our commitment to challenging Islamophobia, fighting against racism, and being partners in the broader struggle for justice and dignity for all peoples,” said organizers.
After enough people gathered so that all the candles could represented, Kathy Lessuck read the posters, with lines such as “Jews against Islamophobia and racism: Rekindling our commitment to justice” and “We fight anti-Muslim profiling and racial profiling in all its forms.”
Lessuck then read a statement in defense of Muslims and those perceived as Muslim. As the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented, hate crimes are rising in the United States since the election of Donald Trump.
Jean Riesman told a story about the Syrian Jews, who light an extra candle each day during Chanukah in memory of their ability to welcome refugees despite cultural differences.
Following this tradition, Riesman said that this year members of JVP will be lighting an extra menorah candle to “welcome in more compassion for ourselves and to acknowledge the ways in which we have been racist and Islamophobic… we light these candles to rekindle our commitment to justice.”
“We light these lights for the instigators and the refusers, the obstinate and unyielding, the ones who kept marching, the ones who tended the fires, the ones who would not bow down,” said Lessuck, “We light these lights for the spirit of resilience that remains after our strength has ebbed away, with the steadfast knowledge that even as the bullets echo repeatedly on bodies lying in the street, that the impunity of the powerful cannot last forever.”