Saturday, February 13, 2016

Riverdalians rally for kidnapped Israelis, Nigerians

By Yueh Ho

The recent kidnappings of three Israeli teenagers and more than 275 Nigerian girls are playing out thousands of miles away, but the sagas brought out dozens of demonstrators calling for their safety on Sunday.

The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale’s (HIR) Rabbi Avi Weiss, long an advocate for international justice, led about 75 outraged at the June 12 kidnapping of the Israeli students and the April abduction of the Nigerian girls. Their respective plights have become causes célèbres around the country and the rest of the globe, although the HIR demonstration appears to be among the first linking the stories.

“Imagine a young boy or girl kidnapped right here in New York,” Rabbi Weiss told the crowd outside HIR. “These are our girls. These are our boys. This is a struggle between those who believe in the holiness of children and those who want to exploit them.” 

After he said a prayer, Ruth Evon Idahosa of PathFinders Justice Initiative, Mojúbàolú Okome of Brooklyn College and others gave speeches in the hot afternoon. The speakers stressed that they saw the kidnapping victims as children of their own in spite of differences of ethnicity, background and religion. They also called on demonstrators to continue taking action.

 “I urge you to have the courage to write to your legislators,” Ms. Idahosa said. “An abduction of one Nigerian girl or Israeli boy is the taking of a world citizen.”

 The crowd encompassed a wide range of ages, but parents made up most of the participants. 

 “To pick on children who are innocent is an outrage,” said 85-year-old Jerry Friedman. “My grandchildren have traveled the world. When you hear something like that, you can’t help but think they could’ve been yours and you have to stand up.”

After the speeches, the demonstrators chanted “Bring our children back” to the tune of the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” 

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