After the war in Israel erupted six weeks ago, posters of the kidnapped started popping up on the lampposts and empty store fronts here on the Upper West Side of New York. So many beautiful faces of young and old, entire families, even babies, kidnapped from Israel on that black October day.
Almost immediately after these posters were put up, someone else would inevitably come and tear them down, deface them with a black marker, or graffiti a hateful comment over the poster. Many people have been “caught in the act” on video and there have been some angry exchanges. Just a week and a half ago, a passerby confronted two “poster rippers” and began recording them on her phone. They responded by ripping her Star of David chain off her neck and knocking the cell phone out of her hand.
Distressed by the sight of posters with the names and faces of children, teenagers, and elderly people removed and only scraps of white paper remaining, I finally decided it was time to take action. When I considered how our brave soldiers were fighting in the hell holes of Gaza, venturing onto West End Avenue did not seem like a big deal. So, armed with posters and heavy-duty adhesive tape, I set out.
As I was taking out a poster and tape from my bag, a visibly Jewish woman stopped me and took me aside, saying in confidence: “I read on Facebook that people have been using Vaseline to hang up the posters. That way, if someone tries to tear them down, they will get it all over their hands.” Then she added, “Good for you for doing this,” and was on her way.
While I was trying to tape up poster #2, a young Asian woman walked by and remarked, with apparent relief, “Good. I thought you were tearing it down.”
Poster #3 was observed by a gentle African-American man who then inquired: “Where was she kidnapped?”
“From Israel,” I replied.
After a moment, he gave me a puzzled look and asked: “Are you related to her?”
I mumbled something about being Jewish and then about her being a human being…
After he walked away, it occurred to me that I should have replied, “Yes, we are related. She is part of my family.” For if there is anything we have learned from the unspeakable horrors of October 7th is that Jews everywhere are, indeed, one family.
Two days later, only one of my posters was still taped on. And then I noticed a new sign on a storefront that was also covered with these posters. Bearing the same design and red and white colors of the Kidnapped posters, this sign read:
Tearing down these posters IS NOT Pro-Palestinian. It’s just hateful and anti-human.
The following Shabbat, I walked again along West End Avenue but this time with members of our community heading to a Bar Mitzvah kiddush. Two little boys with tzitzit walked together on the sidewalk, followed by couples, young and old, dressed up in their fine Shabbat clothes, men wearing kippot and holding their tallit bags under their arms. Parents pushed baby strollers. As we walked by the ripped signs on the poles, I thought to myself: They won’t defeat us. We are the eternal people. Evil won’t win.
But we could still use some more friends here in New York.