As Americans gathered for Thanksgiving this year, many set an extra place setting on Thursday to “host a hostage” amid war in Israel.
The “Seats for Hope” campaign raises awareness of the plight of the hostages, whom Hamas is holding in the Gaza Strip. “As we come together for Thanksgiving this year, we remember that our tables are incomplete until all of the hostages, who were brutally abducted by Hamas on Oct. 7, are back home,” per the campaign’s website.
“Hersh Goldberg-Polin, a 23-year-old Israeli-American hostage of Hamas, has a seat waiting for him at our Thanksgiving table,” wrote William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
The Democratic Majority for Israel posted that it was doing the same. Todd Richman, the group’s co-chair, posted a photo of his Thanksgiving table with two posters of hostages affixed to chairs, with a full place setting for each.
Meredith Weisel, the Anti-Defamation League’s regional office in Washington, D.C., posted a photo of “Reserved for” signs for two hostages.
“Seats of Hope” at our Thanksgiving table,” she wrote. “Praying for their safety and return of all the hostages home now.”
Eva Wyner, deputy director for Jewish affairs to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), posted two photos of hostage posters on seats. “We feel the void of those who were massacred,” she wrote. “We hold onto the hope for what tomorrow will bring and demand the release of all of the hostages, and we pray for our soldiers this Thanksgiving.”
“Seats for Hope” is a project of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.
A similar grassroots endeavor was being held specifically for Avigail Idan, a 3-year-old American-Israeli child, who is being held alone in Gaza, as her parents were killed during the Oct. 7 attacks.
“At your Thanksgiving and Shabbat tables this week, please set a place for Avigail,” wrote the prominent Jewish conservative author and commentator Bethany Mandel. “Bring her out of hell and into the light.”
Meghan McCain, the writer and television commentator, and daughter of the late Sen. John McCain, asked her nearly 780,000 followers on X to “please join me and my friend Bethany Mandel this Thanksgiving by having a place for Avigail.”
“This 3-year-old American girl will be spending Thanksgiving in the hands of dangerous Hamas terrorists,” McCain wrote. “She is the youngest American held hostage in Gaza.”
“I have a daughter nearly the same age as this American citizen. It’s hard to fathom that my Alice could be kidnapped by terrorists and held for over a month and not be a household name,” wrote Lyndsey Fifield, a visiting fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum. “We will make a place for Avigail on Thanksgiving and everyone should.”
Idan, who turned 4 on Nov. 24, had been expected to be among the hostages released as part of the negotiated deal between Hamas and Israel on her birthday but was not among those released.