PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As the war between Israel and Hamas rages on thousands of miles away, hundreds of Rhode Islanders gathered at Temple Beth-El in Providence Wednesday night for a vigil.
The emotional service, with music and prayer, was meant to send a message to those taken hostage: They are not forgotten.
The war, which was sparked by Hamas’ bloody Oct. 7 rampage in southern Israel, is now nearing its fourth week.
Rows of seats in the sanctuary were roped off to hold space for the more than 200 hostages, including women, children and the elderly.
“When you see a number, it’s hard to put it to a face,” said Rabbi Sarah Mack of Temple Beth-El. “That’s why it was important for us to mark those seats off, for folks to see just how big a space in our sanctuary that takes up, and to send a message that it takes up an even bigger space in our hearts.”
The vigil was open to people of all faiths.
“Even as we come together for what is a tragic reason still, that these hostages are being held, I think that we also find comfort in being together,” said Adam Greenman, president of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.
Safety has been top of mind for some time among the Jewish community, but even more so since the war started, with Greenman noting a rise in anti-Semitic incidents. Rhode Island State Police troopers and Providence officers were on hand to provide security.
“I think it’s important for the wider community to know that Jewish communities do not feel safe,” Mack said. “It is essential for us to provide that security, so that our members can come and feel comfortable worshiping here.”
The vigil was a way for attendees to work through a range of emotions brought on by the war.
“We’re feeling many things at once,” Greenman said. “We’re feeling still really distraught from Oct. 7. There’s still a lot of grief in the community. A lot of angst.”
“But we’re also feeling comfort from those in the larger community who’ve wrapped their arms around us,” he continued.