WESTMINSTER, Colo. — Nearly a month since the Hamas attack on Israel, which has led to a devastating war in the region, hundreds of civilians remain captured. More than 200 people were taken hostage by Hamas, according to the Israeli government, in addition to the more than 1,400 killed. As Jewish communities around the globe begin the Shabbat day of rest Friday evening, a synagogue in the Denver metro is praying for all those who won't be at the table.
On the north side of 112th Avenue in Westminster, in front of the Chabad of NW Metro Denver, sit 208 chairs, surrounding tables for a metaphorical Shabbat dinner.
"This is called the Shabbat Empty Table installation, which has been popping up around the world since October 7th—the infamous day when Hamas terrorists stormed into Israel," said Rabbi Benjy Brackman. "On every chair, there's a story. There's a person. There's a name. Some people are as young as nine months old ... and it breaks my heart. It's overwhelming."
On each chair, a small poster features the picture, name, and biographical information of a person held hostage by Hamas.
"The Empty Table project is to make the point that we should have full tables for our Shabbat dinners," Rabbi Brackman said.
The community at the Chabad of NW Metro Dinner has personal connections to the tragedy in Israel, which is still unfolding. One congregant had a loved one who was killed, Rabbi Brackman said, along with another whose son is now serving with the Israel Defense Forces.
"People are hurting, and this is intense," Brackman said. "What we're trying to do is to give people an outlet, so that even thousands of miles away they feel they can contribute. They can participate."
While Shabbat usually concludes after dark on Saturday evening, the Shabbat Empty Table installation will remain outside the synagogue through Monday, November 6th. The public, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, is invited to come visit and witness.
"My prayer is that each one of these people are back with their families by next Shabbat, if not sooner," Rabbi Brackman said, sitting in front of the hundreds of empty chairs. "And that the war comes to an end as quickly as possible."