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500 Jewish Californians and Other Californians of Conscience Shut Down the California State Capitol, Demanding Ceasefire in Gaza

Rabbis, descendants of Holocaust survivors, healthcare workers, teachers, and other Californians gather to peacefully occupy the California State Capitol as legislators reconvene for the first session of 2024


On the first day of the 2024 Legislative Sessions, more than 500 Californian Jews alongside a diverse coalition of Californians shut down the California State Assembly session and the California State Capitol Rotunda to demand an immediate permanent ceasefire in Gaza. In response, the State Assembly canceled the session for the day. Members of Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network along with other Jews and concerned Californians gathered in protest, song, and prayer to demand that California legislators stand for justice and call a lasting ceasefire now. The coalition of protestors included rabbis, children of holocaust survivors, Israelis-Americans, teachers and healthcare workers and many more community members united in their call for American politicians to stop funding genocide.

“We represent thousands of Jewish people from over California who oppose the Israeli government’s genocidal campaign that has murdered over 22,000 including thousands of children and displaced the people of Gaza from their homes,” said Lisa Rofel, a board member of Jewish Voice for Peace and San Francisco resident.

Protesters gathered in both the State Assembly session and in the Capitol rotunda singing Jewish songs and prayers and calling for a ceasefire. They dropped banners from the balcony of the State Assembly room that said “Jews Say No US Funding for Israel’s Genocide of Palestinians.” Protestors laid red tissue-paper poppies on the center of the rotunda to mourn the lives of each Palestinian who has been murdered in Israel’s genocidal campaign. Protesters came together in grief and anger to protest and pray as a community while disrupting business as usual in resistance to the Israeli military’s genocidal campaign against Palestine, which is backed by the US government via significant financial aid as well as the sale of bombs and weapons. After the sit-in, the vast coalition joined a local rally in the Capitol's rose garden led by Palestinian organizers in Sacramento.

Since October 7th, the US government has sent millions of dollars in military aid and weapons to Israel, with the Biden administration twice bypassing Congress to approve an emergency weapons sale. The US government provides $3.8 billion in military aid to the Israeli government annually. Each year Californian’s federal tax dollars amount to more than $609 million in military aid to Israel. The Jewish-led protesters are resolute in their belief that the US government must stop funding genocide and instead invest in local communities including expansions for healthcare, affordable housing, climate resiliency, education, and affordable childcare.

“I am the grandchild of holocaust survivors and I know that part of the great tragedy of the Holocaust was that the world stood by and let it happen. I will not be a bystander as the Israeli military wages a genocide in Gaza that is fully funded by my own government. I owe it to my family to speak out. I am here to say never again for anyone,” said Margo Goldstein, a member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist organization.

“We as California’s taxpayers contribute hundreds of millions in military aid to Israel each year, while people in our own communities struggle without access to food, homes, and healthcare. We are Jewish Americans committed to the safety and dignity of all people and call on our leaders to stop funding genocide and instead invest in our local communities,saidDavid Jones Krause, a member of If Not Now, and labor activist based in Oakland.

For the past three months, Jewish Americans have protested at the United States Capitol, in train stations, congressional offices, and iconic landmarks across the nation calling for a permanent ceasefire now. On November 13th, over 700+ California Jews and allies occupied the Oakland Federal Building calling for a ceasefire. Jewish organizers will persist in disrupting business as usual as long as the Israeli government continues its genocidal campaign in Gaza.

Since October 7th, the Israeli military has slaughtered over 22,000 Palestinians including more than 8,000 children in Gaza. According to December’s polling by Data for Progress, American voters overwhelmingly support a ceasefire: 61% of likely voters and 80% of democrats. In spite of this, Representative Barbara Lee is the only California legislator who has signed onto Res. 786, which calls for a ceasefire and humanitarian aid into Gaza. Californian Jews in alliance with Californians of many faiths and backgrounds are calling upon California Legislators to do their job and represent their constituencies. Now we find out: will they listen?

“We as Jews demand an immediate lasting ceasefire and end to aid for Israel’s genocidal campaign,” Tina Szpicek, a Berkeley resident, lawyer, and grandchild of a Holocaust survivor. “Our tradition calls upon us to stand in solidarity with Palestinians, to disrupt business as usual, and to say unequivocally never again for anyone.”

Audio/visuals attached include: Photos of hundreds of Jewish residents of Northern California in shirts that say "Ceasefire Now" singing and praying. Photos available here. Additional videos and interviews available upon request.

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. JVP has over 200,000 online supporters, over 70 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.

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