Jewish organization in Montreal sets empty Shabbat dinner tables, calling for release of hostages

“They're missing,” said Yair Szlak, president of Federation CJA, when talking about the empty Shabbat dinner table on display in Montreal that represents the more than 200 Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Gareth Madoc-Jones reports.

Federation CJA, a Canadian Jewish organization based in Montreal, is asking for the release of the more than 200 Israeli hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

On Thursday, they put on display an installation that includes an empty Shabbat dinner table in front of their Montreal offices to bring attention to the hostages.

“The installation you see behind us is representative of a very special moment in the Jewish calendar. Every week we sit down at the Shabbat table, the Sabbath table on a Friday night, and we enjoy a Sabbath meal with our families,” explained Yair Szlak, the president of Federation CJA, adding, “242 members of our Jewish global community are missing and are in the hands of Hamas. They’re missing from their Shabbat tables. And the installation behind us is a reminder of those 242 lives, including 30 children.”

“We talk about hostages. You’ll see some of these. There’s a high chair. There’s stuffed animals. Some of these are children. There’s a nine month old baby. We have no idea what condition they’re in. And we’re urging world leadership to do something about it and bring these hostages home,” said Eta Yudin, vice president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).  

Shabbat dinner installation in Montreal for captives held by Hamas
(CREDIT: Gareth Madoc-Jones)
Shabbat dinner installation in Montreal for captives held by Hamas
(CREDIT: Gareth Madoc-Jones)

The Shabbat table on display from noon until 7 p.m. includes empty seats that each represent one of the Israeli hostages. On each chair, there are images of those captured. On the table, there are candles, flowers, kippas and wine.

“The community is feeling, fearing, why is it that the world is not recognizing what’s happening here?” said Szlak.

“We want them home. So you’ll see on each chair there’s a t-shirt representing one of the hostages. You see the picture and behind me you hear a recording, someone is listing all of the names. So it takes quite some time to list 242 names,” added Yudin.

Federation CJA states, in the press release, that this display is meant to “reminding passers-by that the captives held in Gaza will not be with their families for yet another Shabbat, the weekly Jewish day of rest.”

More than 1,400 people have been killed in Israel, the vast majority by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack.

The Health Ministry, part of the Hamas-run government in Gaza, said Thursday that more than 9,000 Palestinians have been killed since war broke out – many of them women and children.

-With files from The Canadian Press

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