On its first day of public activity, BrownU Jews for Ceasefire Now quickly became the center of attention on College Hill.
The group ÔÇö officially announced Nov. 8, though some members signed a letter in The Herald under the title ÔÇťJews for Ceasefire NowÔÇŁ the day before ÔÇö stemmed from informal gatherings that came soon after HamasÔÇÖs Oct. 7 attacks on southern Israel, according to Mica Maltzman ÔÇÖ25 and Rita Feder ÔÇÖ24, two representatives from JFCN.
In just under a month, the meetings led to a Nov. 8 sit-in at University Hall in which 20 students were arrested and charged with willful trespass. At the sit-in, they demanded Brown ÔÇťpromote an immediate ceasefire and a lasting peace by divesting its endowment from companies that enable war crimes in Gaza,ÔÇŁ according to an .
At initial meetings, students concerned about IsraelÔÇÖs response to the attacks gathered to grieve and process their emotions.
Edie Fine ÔÇÖ25, who participated in the sit-in, said the gatherings served as an ÔÇťaffinity spaceÔÇŁ in which numerous students expressed a desire to support pro-Palestinian advocacy.
There was ÔÇťno possible way that we could spend time in a room engaging with our own feelings and emotions and not emerge with an urgency and a compulsion to act,ÔÇŁ Fine added.
Feder said she hoped to use the groupÔÇÖs platform as Jewish students to ÔÇťdisrupt the narrative that there is a monolithic Jewish voice that stands solely in support of the military actions of the State of Israel.ÔÇŁ
ÔÇťIt was important for us to show that there are Jews who view the safety of Israelis and Jews not as mutually exclusive from the safety and security of Palestinians, but actually as inextricably intertwined,ÔÇŁ Feder said.
As demands for the University to divest or call for a ceasefire went unmet by the University, a few JFCN group members proposed ÔÇťescalating the call,ÔÇŁ according to Feder.
Fine cited the UniversityÔÇÖs history of student activism through sit-ins as one of JFCNÔÇÖs primary motivations for choosing to occupy University Hall on Nov. 8.
Many JFCN members met on the night of Nov. 6 ÔÇö two days before the sit-in ÔÇö at the house of a member to formulate a plan and discuss all possible outcomes, Fine said. For safety and visibility reasons, the group aimed to reach a ÔÇťcritical massÔÇŁ of 20 students who would participate in the sit-in before following through, according to Fine.
ÔÇťIt was a risky move,ÔÇŁ Feder said. ÔÇťPeople knew the potential consequences, and some people werenÔÇÖt in a position to take those risks.ÔÇŁ
The groupÔÇÖs primary focus was ensuring that all participants felt emotionally prepared with ÔÇťno unanswered anxieties,ÔÇŁ Fine said.
Fine said the decision was not taken lightly, but the ÔÇťyesÔÇŁ came immediately. ÔÇťI knew what my instincts were, and I knew I had to trust them,ÔÇŁ they said.
The meeting ended with only 15 students willing to sit in. But JFCNÔÇÖs outreach over the next two days garnered enough support to follow through with the groupÔÇÖs plans on Nov. 8. Twenty students physically occupied University Hall that day, but more than 40 students were prepared to sustain the participants until demands were met, according to Feder.
JFCN shares some members with Talk for Tomorrow, a group of anonymous, multicultural students that held an Oct. 18 vigil to mourn Palestinian and Israeli victims, Feder wrote in a message to The Herald. Prior to the vigil, Talk for Tomorrow released an open letter addressed to Paxson, calling on her ÔÇťto protect Palestinians and those advocating for Palestinian rights on campus.ÔÇŁ
According to Feder, who has been involved with Talk for Tomorrow, the group is ÔÇťnot dead,ÔÇŁ though many members are currently ÔÇťat capacity.ÔÇŁ Still, Feder hopes that the group will continue to be a space for people to ÔÇťtalk to each other on how to engage in difficult issues and humanize each other.ÔÇŁ
Fine believes there are over 100 students currently involved in JFCN ÔÇö now focused on ensuring the sit-in did not go unnoticed. Since the groupÔÇÖs demands were not met, Feder previously told The Herald that JFCN is ÔÇťa voice that will only get louder.ÔÇŁ