Hundreds packed into an Upper West Side school Monday night to echo the calls to free three yeshiva students who were kidnapped in the West Bank Thursday, one of them an American citizen with ties to the tri-state area.
"I think the community really needs to step out to protest," eighth-grader Sarini Koffman said at the vigil at Manhattan Day School, where many of the students plan to study in Israel during a gap year between high school and college. "These are our people. We need to help them."
Israel officials believe the teens were abducted in a West Bank settlement by members of Hamas. One of the victims is 16-year-old Naftail Frenkel, whose grandparents moved to Israel from Flatbush. The teen grew up in Israel but has dual citizenship in the U.S.
In the past 24 hours, Israeli officials have arrested 40 people in the West Bank, including the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, who is also a senior Hamas leader. While the story may be taking shape thousands of miles away from the West 75th Street school, it hits close to home for many.
"I feel particularly connected because I have a 16-year-old boy, and I can only imagine how the moms are feeling," said vigil organizer Chavie Kahn.
Rabbi Mordechai Besser said: "What we are telling them is, we are all one body. If one part hurts, we all ache."
"It's on our minds all the time," said eighth-grade student Gabrielle Posner. "We think about it all the time."