Statement of Renée Steinhagen
Jewish Voice for Peace—Northern New Jersey
November 13, 2023, Rally for Ceasefire Now
Thank you everyone for showing up today to call out Senator Booker and demand that he call for a cease fire in Gaza — immediately.
My name is Renée Steinhagen, and I am a member of Jewish Voice for Peace of Northern New Jersey.
Why am I here? I, like I assume all of you, have come here today to protest the horrors and the grave injustice that Israel is perpetrating on the people of Gaza – only the latest episode in a 75-year history of oppression by the Zionist state.
I’d like to tell you about my journey as a Jewish American: I am what many call a “Holocaust Jew,” more specifically, a “child of the Holocaust.” Though there are several books written on the subject, I can only tell you what such a label has meant to me.
My mother was a 20-something year-old Jewish woman who grew up in Vienna, Austria, a country taken over by the Nazis in 1938. She was one of the lucky few of Austria’s Jews to survive Hitler’s mass murder. My father was from Berlin, and one of the small number of German Jews to survive the war. They met in a displaced persons camp in Degendorf, Germany, while waiting for over one year to come to the United States. Both felt that they had no future in their respective countries of birth. All their friends and every adult that visited our home was a survivor of the camps.
I watched these people as a young child and listened to their animated political discussions over coffee and cake every Sunday of the first twelve or so years of my life, and all I could keep asking myself is “what would I have done?” Over and over again, I asked myself “what would I have done?” Would I have tried to hide, resist deportation, sabotage war goods produced by prisoners in the work camps, or escape, like my father, from a death march out of the Auschwitz death camp in the winter of 1945?
Let me be honest with you, I am now 67 and still I do not have an answer. What I do know, however, is that ever since an early age, I decided that I would never collaborate with any person, employer or organization engaged in wrongdoing nor be complicit in any decision or action that I believed was morally wrong or unjust.
And that is why I am standing here today with all of you to demand that Senator Booker call for a cease fire now, that he join Senator Durbin, representatives Bush, Omar, Tlaib and others to demand a cease fire now, that he reject any resolution providing additional military funding to Israel to enable their killing, and end the siege that has entailed the cutting off of water, food, fuel and medicine to the desperate people of Gaza. A siege supported by the U.S. government and other world powers.
A cease fire is necessary to end the indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza that has killed over 11,000 people, the vast majority of them civilians, over 4,000 of whom are children, and has displaced over 1.5 million Palestinians in just four weeks. A humanitarian pause is simply not sufficient to end the cycle of violence and death that has gripped Israel and Palestine for decades and which requires a political solution.
Cory Booker, I have known you since you first came to Newark, before you served as a councilman and Newark’s mayor. You have always presented yourself as a man of moral integrity and a proponent of social justice. Now is the time to show that commitment and heed the call of all your constituents who are gathered here today.
All of us here today are committed to never again for anyone. Cory, do you hear us? The situation demands a cease fire now. We demand a ceasefire now.