Volunteers set empty Shabbat table for 241
Photo: Corinne Baum
Shabbat table set by volunteers outside Dallas City Hall Nov. 5, 2023, with 241 empty places for the kidnapped hostages

One month after Oct. 7, a Display in Dallas brings the Jewish community together

By Corinne Baum

A group of over 100 volunteers from the North Texas Jewish community banded together to create a display in the heart of downtown Dallas. An empty Shabbat table with 241 places, complete with challahs, candles and highchairs, sat in front of Dallas City Hall Sunday, Nov. 5. Each vacant seat represented one of the civilians kidnapped by Hamas terrorists during the course of the war in Gaza. 

Organizers were inspired by similar installations around the world and decided to get to work. “In this kind of a situation when you have kids and babies and women and grandmothers, you just cannot sit still,” said organizer Rachel Ben Yaisch. “You feel that you have to do something.”

On Saturday, Oct. 7, the terrorist group broke the borders of Israel, killing at least 1,400 people and injuring over 5,500 more. Death tolls have risen on both sides as the conflict now enters its second month. 

For many members of the community, the sight of the empty table hits close to home. 

“It’s very tough, especially for me, because my family is still there,” said Carmel Zach, who is originally from Be’er Sheva. “It’s meant a lot that people had the time and the means and the compassion to come here and put on such a wonderful, remarkable presentation.” 

Flyer for hostage Raz Katz-Asher. Katz-Asher has family in Texas campaigning the federal government to get her and her family home.
Chair in honor of hostage Yafa Adar stands at the event on Nov. 5, 2023. A video of Adar riding in a golf cart was one of the first images of Hamas taking hostages to Gaza.

The display was nearly as long as City Hall and each seat included a picture and basic information on each hostage. The event came after a unanimous Dallas City Council resolution on Oct. 11 to condemn the Oct. 7 attack. 

“That resolution shows the moral clarity of the Dallas City Council in supporting a democratic state that has tried to live in peace with all of its neighbors, who seem to be obsessed with killing them and eliminating them,” said Dallas City Councilwoman Cara Mendelsohn. “This table represents the number one call we should be making, which is to return our hostages.” 

The installation was more than an educational display or a call to action; it also allowed community members the chance to grieve together. “Jewish people always come together in times of hardships,” said attendee Gabbi Malka. “It means a lot that even though we’re so far away from Israel, we can all come together here.”

For those with family members who are kidnapped or who are fighting on the front lines, community has been of the utmost importance. 

“I don’t think it’s only my family,” said Ben Yaisch. “I would say we are all one big family. And we don’t leave family behind.” 

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