Watch CBS News

Sacramento Jewish community rallies for release of 200+ Hamas hostages, local man's family among those taken

Sacramento Jewish community joins calls for Hamas to release more hostages
Sacramento Jewish community joins calls for Hamas to release more hostages 03:30

SACRAMENTO — As war rages on in Israel, Hamas released two more hostages Monday identified by Israeli officials as Nurit Cooper and Yocheved Lifshitz. This comes three days after Hamas released two American women.

While the news brings a glimmer of hope, the outcry from Sacramento's Jewish community and its allies on Monday evening was clear: release all hostages held by Hamas immediately. 

It is reported that Hamas still has more than 200 captives that were taken in its October 7 attack on Israel. 

Around 200 people gathered on the steps of the California State Capitol in a vigil for the hostages held in unison by Sacramento interfaith leaders, local politicians and community members. 

"Hear our prayers. Hear our prayers," Jewish faith leaders sang at the podium during Monday's rally. 

"We are hurt. We are suffering. We miss our people. We really want them back. We will not accept terror," said Yaniv El Madawi, an Israeli native who attended Monday. 

Pictures of the missing were plastered on posters surrounding California's Capitol for the world to see.

"Bring the hostages home. Let our people go," said Barry Broad, president of the Jewish Federation of Sacramento. "We have to speak up everywhere, all the time, in any way we can."

Broad's pregnant daughter and her husband, currently fighting in the war, are in Israel. He describes this as an incredibly emotional time for his family. 

"But even the people who don't have a direct relative, there's something about this that has touched Jewish people deeply, all of them," Broad said. "They feel an extraordinary kinship to people in Israel whether they know someone or not."

Meirav Tal (left) and Yair Yaakov   Family of Yair Yaakov

One of the loudest cries among this sea of voices Monday came from Ryan Pessah of Sacramento. It has been confirmed multiple of his family members were taken hostage by Hamas on October 7. 

"My heart stops. I assume the worst," Pessah told CBS13 about how he took the news. "My cousin, Yair, and his girlfriend, Meirav, went to a bomb shelter to hide and hopefully wait out the attack from terrorists. They were not so lucky. A grenade blew up the door of the shelter they were in and terrorists came in."

Meirav Tal, Yair Yaakov, and his two children aged 16 and 12 were taken hostage. 

Pessah said the teenagers, in a different bomb shelter, were on the phone with their mother when they were abducted. 

"On the phone with their mom saying, 'They are here, they are here.' The last few sentences their mom hears them say are talking to the terrorists saying, 'I'm too young to be taken, please. Please don't take me. I'm too young.' Then the phone call ends," Pessah said. 

Hamas sent video of this all unfolding to family members of Yair but asked for no ransom. 

"Yair's sister and brother received a video on their cellphones from the terrorists. They videoed the abduction and sent it to them. That's the only communication we've had, the only understanding of what we know," Pessah said. 

CBS13 reviewed the video and chose not to air it given the graphic and disturbing nature. Still, images showing Yair on the ground, held at gunpoint were aired on CBS13 during the broadcast of this story. 

"I'm being optimistic. I would hope they are alive and feel they are alive in my heart. Simply because I know these terrorists know we as Jews value life and these hostages are more valuable alive. That's what I am holding on to," Pessah said. 

The plea for the lives of all those still missing was echoed by Sacramento's Mayor Darrel Steinberg at Monday's vigil. 

"As Jews, we speak loudly and clearly for safety of the Jewish hostages. If we don't, there is no guarantee others will," Steinberg said.

It is also a resounding call for an end to war in Israel. 

"We will never minimize the deaths of all innocent people, including Palestinian people. We will never minimize the death or suffering of civilians in war including innocents in Israel and Gaza. We want peace," Steinberg said. 

The rally was peaceful with no clashes and no counterprotesting. CHP provided heavy security throughout the duration of the vigil. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.