700+ people occupied the Oakland Federal Building, the largest protest of Jews in solidarity with Palestinians in California history; more than 450 arrested including rabbis
Oakland, Nov. 13, 2023 – More than 700 Jews and allies shut down the Oakland Federal Building Monday, occupying its rotunda to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Over 450 Jews and allies were arrested, making it the largest mass arrest in the Bay Area in decades. The protest is led by Jewish Voice for Peace, with Jews joining from all over the Bay Area including Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Rabbi Elliot Kukla, children of holocaust survivors, Israelis and film director Boots Riley.
Hundreds of Jews wore matching black T-shirts reading “Jews Say Ceasefire Now” while taking over the Oakland Federal Building’s rotunda, with large banners reading “Let Gaza Live” and “Not in our Name,” and other slogans.
“I’m here to plead for a ceasefire, to say no genocide in our name, to plead for love over fear, and the value of every human life,” said Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, who was one of the first woman rabbis in Jewish history.
The action was part of a national week of Jewish-led protests calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, and came the same day that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are in the Bay Area for APEC. Protesters demanded that Biden and Harris follow the lead of Rep. Barbara Lee, Oakland’s representative, in calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
“People often look at atrocities throughout history and think that the people then must be different then we are now, that had there been more enlightened people around us that things would have been different. We now know none of that is true. No matter how enlightened you are, if you don’t do something, if you don’t take action, this genocide will continue,” said film director Boots Riley.
The action was the first mass Jewish sit-in on the West Coast, mirroring similar actions at Grand Central Station, the Statue of Liberty, and other locations across the country and world. It was the largest Jewish direct action in Bay Area history, involving a wide coalition of Jewish people — including rabbis, Israelis and children of Holocaust survivors.
“Every day that our leaders wait to call for a ceasefire, hundreds more innocent lives are lost. The Israeli military — backed by American taxpayers — is killing children at a rate of 136 a day and has displaced more than 1.5 million people,” said Liv Kunins-Berkowitz, media coordinator with Jewish Voice for Peace.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi has still not called for a ceasefire a month into the barrage, even as tens of thousands of people have marched in the streets, and hundreds of Bay Area Jews and others have locked themselves in front of her offices in San Francisco.
“We are shutting down the Federal Building and will not leave until forcibly removed. Stop the bombing, stop killing children. Ceasefire now.” said Jewish Voice for Peace member Seth Morrison
Jewish Voice for Peace is a national grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine.