Passover Meals Nationwide Left One Empty Seat

Jews save place at Seders for Evan Gershkovich, 'WSJ' reporter jailed in Russia
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2023 10:26 AM CDT
Jailed WSJ Reporter Had a Seat at a Whole Lot of Seders
"Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich is shown in this undated photo.   (The Wall Street Journal via AP, File)

Human rights groups and journalists are speaking out about Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter detained last month in Russia on alleged spy charges. Now, members of the Jewish community are offering their own nod to the 31-year-old journalist, leaving an empty seat at their Seder, the traditional meal celebrated during Passover. "For all my Jews out there, please join us in demanding the release of @WSJ journalist @evangershkovich as we celebrate freedom this Passover," tweeted Journal colleague Jared Malsin on Monday, noting that Gershkovich is the son of Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union and asking people to set a place for him at their own Seder tables.

Per the BBC, Malsin's reference to freedom for Gershkovich syncs with Passover's theme of the Jews' liberation from ancient Egypt. The phrase "Let Evan Go!"—a play on Moses' "Let my people go"—is also incorporated into the graphic that's now circulating for Gershkovich, as are the hashtags #FreeEvan and #IStandWithEvan. The UK broadcaster also notes that the Passover Seder has long been used in the US as a show of support for Jews in danger elsewhere in the world, including during the mid-'80s, when Soviet Jews were fleeing their homes for the US, Israel, and other nations to escape religious persecution. The Jerusalem Post notes that the message to save a Seder seat and free Gershkovich has been shared far and wide, including by tech journalist Kara Swisher and even President Biden.

"It feels like an attack on all of us," Shayndi Raice, the Journal's deputy bureau chief for the Middle East and North Africa, tells NPR, calling Gershkovich's situation "horrific" and "terrifying." "We're all kind of in this state of 'how can we help him, what can we do.'" The Journal, White House, and US government officials all deny the espionage charges against the reporter, who's being held in a prison in the Russian capital. Max Seddon, Moscow bureau chief for the Financial Times, noted earlier this week that Gershkovich was visited by Russian prison monitors on Monday and was in a "cheerful" mood, with a TV in his cell that has 20 Russian channels and a novel that he's reading: Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, written in 1959 but censored by the Soviet Union until 1988. (More Evan Gershkovich stories.)

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