rabbi protest garner
Photo by Pamela Shifman.

Several rabbis were among dozens of people arrested Thursday night for blocking the intersection of 96th street and Broadway to mourn Eric Garner and protest the lack of accountability for his death.

The rabbis were part of a group of several hundred people who had gathered at B’nai Jeshurun on West 88th street to pray and organize. The group also included Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. JFREJ, the Jews For Racial and Economic Justice, helped organize. Gale Brewer and Jerry Nadler were at B’nai Jeshurun, said Pamela Shifman, one of the people who attended.

They went from the synagogue to the intersection of 96th and Broadway, where about 25 people sat in the street, singing and blocking traffic. There were even “songs about the Russian Czarist police,” wrote Kate Hinds, a reporter at WNYC. They held signs protesting broken windows policing and some that said “Black Lives Matter,” a rallying cry of the Ferguson and Garner protests.

The protestors also said the Mourner’s Kaddish for Garner. “There were a lot of heavy-hitting rabbis saying Kaddish,” said Shifman.

Police eventually moved in and began arresting the people sitting in the street, carrying them off in two vans. That’s Weingarten on the left in the photo below.

Here are some more photos from the march and sit-in:




rabbi protest2
Photo by Claire Cohoe.

rabbi protest3
Photo by Pamela Shifman.




Several people held candles, as in a vigil. Many protestors who were not in the street were in the median, outside the entrance to the 96th street subway station.

protest 96th
Photo by David Bailly.

After the arrests, a group of 40 or so protestors walked on the sidewalks to the 24th precinct on 100th street, chanting things like “Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Shut it Down, Shut it Down.” When they got there, they sang Oseh Shalom. The last we heard, they were on their way to 1 Police Plaza. Among the rabbis arrested were Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of CBST and Rabbi Jill Jacobs. Jacobs tweeted the photos below:


Michael Spitzer-Rubinstein, one of the protestors, wrote:

“I have never felt more proud to be Jewish than tonight, marching with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice [JFREJ] up Broadway demanding justice for Eric Garner and praying Kaddish for all victims of police brutality.

The Torah teaches us, “Justice, justice, shall you pursue,” and we are part of a movement pursuing justice. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said about marching in the Civil Rights Movement, ‘I felt my feet were praying.’ I felt that tonight, too.”

NEWS | 40 comments | permalink
    1. Brian says:

      Protest if you want but I personally witnessed a number of ambulances trying to get to the hospital near my apartment being impeded by protestors. I hope everyone trying to get to the ER made it okay. Seconds matter in these cases. I doubt the person on the way to the hospital is concerned about your protesting.

      • Rachel says:

        Brian, as someone who was standing in the street as part of the protest, I too saw those ambulances. I also saw them turn west from Broadway onto 97th Street. We blocked a single intersection for about half an hour; it did not impede any ambulances.

        • Jason says:

          Rachel, I wonder how you would feel if a close friend or a family member was in the back of that ambulance and required immediate care, such as a heart attack or stroke, and their progress was impeded to the hospital even if just for a few minutes. There is a reason that the city liberally distributes protest permits, to encourage protesters to make their voices heard while at the same time ensuring everyone’s access to critical city services, perhaps life saving services.

          • JayPeg says:

            Jason and Brian:

            I ask, how would you feel if your friend or relative was being choked by the police , gasping for air, while a knee was on their heads? Yes, you are right. Each second matters. Each lives matters.

          • UWS-er says:

            It’s a valid point. But considering that the police are murdering unarmed black people in the streets and getting away with it, I think it’s pretty understandable that protesters didn’t want to apply for a permit. They’re angry and want to be heard, and holy crap, who can blame them?

          • DMH says:

            In the very next article on this site, a dramatic penthouse fire on 96th Street was called in to FDNY at 11:20 pm. Sixty firefighters in 12 units showed up within minutes, and the blaze was under control by 11:42 pm. Take a look at the photo of rows of firetrucks at the scene on 96th. It seems they had no problem responding to the emergency. Excellent work by FDNY.

      • A different Brian says:

        I personally witness a number of ambulances trying to get to sick people and hospitals every day being impeded by other vehicles, also called traffic. Seconds matter in these cases. I doubt the person on the way to the hospital is concerned about your need to drive your car instead of taking the subway.

    2. Jamie says:

      Sending ambulances through protests is a very common tactic used by the police to disperse protest clusters. I’m not saying 100% this was the case because I do not know it as a fact, but I’ve seen this emerge as a strategy since the RNC (also fire trucks). Ambulances know there is more than one way to the hospital.
      Much love and solidarity to my brothers and sisters in the streets.

    3. ScooterStan says:

      Oy! What’s a bunch of nice Jewish boys and girls doing sitting in the dirty gutter??

      Oy, they’re lucky their mothers, who always yelled “Be careful crossing the street! There are cars coming!!”didn’t see them!!

      And who’s going to clean their nice coats from the dirty gutter?

      It’s a shondeh!

      • Justina says:

        This group is the assorted leftist, pro-Arab, commie Rabbis who wouldn’t go to all this trouble for Israel. A Shonda? No kidding!

    4. BlingBling says:

      power to the protests, but arrest anyone blocking the street.
      our right to protests does not allow us the right to impede people’s civil right to free access to street traffic.

      with right comes responsibility, use it wisely and arrest the street blockers

    5. Brian says:

      Rachel, I should have been more clear. I was referring to Wed night’s protests. Also, the NYPD does not send ambulances to disperse protests. That’s ridiculous. There may be more than one way to a Hospital and if your loved one is ever on board, I’m pretty sure you would not want them making detours. Your protests are futile except in your own minds.

    6. Donna Hicks says:

      Did anyone make connections with Palestine?

    7. Justina says:

      Of course, the pro-Palestinian B’nai Jeshurun Rabbis, why am I not surprised? While this cause is noble, on the other hand, many of these Rabbis arrested wouldn’t lift a finger for Israel.

      • Jeremy says:

        Actually, I think it’s the opposite. The BJ rabbis are pretty cool with Israel and the behavior and tactics of the IDF, but apparently hit their limit when the 20th and 24th precincts enforce against quality-of-life crimes. Weird.

        I mean, whatever your position is about Israel, I think it’s obvious that the NYPD is *miles* more careful in its activities than the IDF is in theirs. BJ dropped the ball on this one.

    8. Lucille Gordon says:

      thanks to the Westside Rag for this coverage. While I read the NYT daily I had no idea that this protest had taken place. Cheers to the demonstrators and the Westside Rag.

    9. Carol M says:

      Brian, while I respect everyone’s right to their opinion, it has been proven over the years that demonstrations and gatherings of citizens in unified voice have caused change. Protests have given women the right to vote. Protests have improved racial and cultural acceptance across the country. Protests have ended wars.Protests that do no harm to others is acceptable and guaranteed by the US Constitution. Though we have a long way to go as a nation, protests have and do move us forward…….

    10. Scott says:

      These rabbis aren’t fooling anyone. When Rachel Corrie was murdered by that Israeli Defense Force bulldozer guy, where were they? She was unarmed too. She deserved the courtesy of a grand jury probe into the actions of her killer. Instead…crickets in NYC!

    11. Rodger Lodger says:


    12. Jenna says:

      Yeah to the Jewish Community for standing up to injustice! Wish I could have been there!

      To comments about B’nai Jeshurun Rabbis…as a member it’s sad to hear such ignorant comments. Our Rabbis are pro-israel. All are very much involved with supporting Israel…nothing wrong with wanting a peaceful resolution for all. Debates are easy to hide behind on a blog. You should go talk to the Rabbis for a real conversation.

    13. Ben says:

      How would you feel if it was your son/father/husband killed by the police?? How would you feel if your people could not get justice after literally centuries of mistreatment and protest. Blocking an intersection seems like a mild and appropriate response. Black Lives Matter.

      • Jeremy says:

        I’m asking this question honestly: We have extraordinary access to the 24th precinct, and have for many years. Why is blocking an intersection on the UWS the appropriate response to the perception of ongoing institutional mistreatment of black men?

        Just as an example, wouldn’t it be more effective to organize residents to support a more permissive community attitude for low-level crimes in our neighborhood?

        • Independent says:

          “Why is blocking an intersection on the UWS the appropriate response to the perception of ongoing institutional mistreatment of black men?”

          My thoughts exactly, Jeremy.

          So far, I haven’t seen any of the posters defending the illegal, disruptive imposition upon the public explain why they could not have protested in one of any number of other ways that are legal and responsible.

        • n says:

          Because they did a LOT more than block one intersection. They marched down the West Side Highway, gathered in Foley Square, marched through Midtown and across the Brooklyn Bridge, etc.

          Every movement in human history that I can think of began with public protests like this. If mildly inconveniencing a few hundred people gets them the attention they absolutely need, then so be it.

          • Jeremy says:

            No, that’s all the same tactic. Like I said, the community has *fantastic* access to the precinct that polices 96th and Broadway. If the local protesters feel that these police should no longer pursue “broken windows” policing, or that the 24th precinct officers truly act like “Russian Czarist” police, why is this fairly random sit-in the way to go?

            Why not directly ask Captain Larin to reduce the patrolling and minor crime arrests in the precinct? Why not engage the community board to pass a resolution demanding less response to community quality-of-life complaints? Why not set up citizen civil rights monitoring teams at Wise or Douglass Towers? Lord knows we have plenty of mensch lawyers in the neighborhood – maybe they could rotate spending nights there. For sure, they certainly could lobby to re-fill the shelter on 95th and welcome back a few more of the “window-breakers.”

            Last night was moreso a moment of semi-indulgent tzedakah than any sort of meaningful action – like taking off your hat when you hear the national anthem.

    14. Olivia says:


      • lsilver212 says:

        What is wrong with you people? I was going to say how proud I am of the protesters, who are very organized and peaceful, and I am. But to hear your comments is so disheartening and shocking. Do you not believe black lives are worth anything? That blocking a crosswalk is not a reasonable response to murder? I find your responses to the protests despicable and without empathy of any kind. This isn’t the Upper West Side I grew up in.

        • Paul RL says:

          Maybe it’s a different UWS. Maybe many of us are tired of feeling that we have to agree, lemming-like, with whatever opinions are deemed “appropriate” for an Upper West Sider. Maybe many of us feel that our perceived liberalism has helped reduce the quality of life here. I’m sorry that you are shocked, disheartened, and find many responses on this blog to be despicable and without empathy. But if you want diversity, well, here it is. Because not everyone has to agree with the methods of the protesters, and not everyone has to agree with you.

          • Rodger Lodger says:

            It’s a tactic perfected by the Left: don’t engage an opponent on the merits. Just ask where did he go wrong in becoming so immoral, thick-headed, racist, uncaring, virtually non-human? It wouldn’t work on me because I can’t stand to be in the same room as this type.

      • RV says:

        This is beautiful indeed. Solidarity is what we need at this point, and concrete points to reform the police and judicial systems. Together we can achieve more.

    15. Noa says:

      What you all did made me cry in a good way. Thank you to our religious and spiritual leaders for standing on the side of human life and justice. Black lives matter and I feel grateful to not be alone in my Jewish community in acting in support of black leadership to end centuries of dehumanization and killings of black people.

    16. Roger says:

      why are some of these people wearing Tallitot at night? Is it Kol Nidrei already?

    17. TeresaUWS says:

      I applaud the support of people for this cause but just a reminder: the term paddy wagon is a derogatory slur against the Irish – perhaps drop that from the conversation in future.

    18. Amy says:

      I was one of the protesters last night. I believe the line was about “New York racist police”, not “Russian fascist police” as quoted in the article vis a vis the WNYC reporter.

    19. webot says:

      question: were there any protests a few weeks back when those 4 worshippers were hacked to death while praying?

    20. pjrod830 says:

      You people accomplished nothing with your protests other than inconveniencing your neighbors and soothing your own consciences. Let’s see how much you hate the police when you need them.

    21. bravo says:

      “New York racist police”? Isn’t it the spit in the face of Black, Hispanic and Asian police officers? So now they have to pretend that they agree with this ugly generalization, right? Like our non-entity craven mayor, you insult and debase our multiracial police force.

    22. Lorenzo Garcia says:

      Thank you for this inspiring story. In New Mexico, where I live there has been a rash of killings of young adults, mostly Chicanos and mostly men of the global majority. The criminalizing of our youth has been a daily practice. It’s a diversion tactic, where we often don’t think about the real issues: poverty, unemployment and hopelessness.