About 250 demonstrators, some chanting Hebrew prayers and carrying menorahs to mark the celebration of Hanukah, picketed near the South African embassy yesterday in a Jewish "community vigil" as part of the six-week-old demonstrations here against apartheid.
Christmas "is a most appropriate day on which the American Jewish community can say several things at once to the larger community," said Hyman Bookbinder, Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee. He said they wanted to give Christians "a day off" from the ongoing demonstrations, and also wanted to remind blacks that Jews "are indeed close allies in the struggle for human freedom and social justice everywhere."
"If we can make another contribution to black-Jewish cooperation, it is a day well spent," he said. "Our central message today is for the people of South Africa -- a message of determination that freedom-loving people around the world will continue to voice our condemnation of apartheid."
Yesterday's vigil, which included a Hanukah service marking the eighth night of the Jewish holiday, was arranged through TransAfrica, the group that began the Free South Africa demonstrations Nov. 21. The American Jewish Committee, the New Jewish Agenda, the Jewish Labor Committee and the Washington Association of Reform Congregations participated.
"As a Jew, I know what discrimination and prejudice are about. That's why I'm here," said Paula Echeverria, 61, who came to the demonstration with her husband, Edward, and two daughters. "Apartheid is precisely the same thing as the control of the Jews in the ghettos of Europe by the Nazis."
Rabbi Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee said Hanukah recalls "a distant time when the few overpowered the many, and when freedom and independence were victorious over oppression . . . . Surely this story is especially appropriate for us today."