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Harvard Affiliates Mourn Israeli Victims of Hamas Attacks at Candlelit Vigil

Harvard affiliates lit candles on the steps of Widener Library at a Sunday evening vigil for victims of the invasion by Hamas.
Harvard affiliates lit candles on the steps of Widener Library at a Sunday evening vigil for victims of the invasion by Hamas. By Julian J. Giordano
By Joyce E. Kim, Crimson Staff Writer

More than 200 Harvard affiliates gathered in front of Widener Library Sunday evening for a candlelit vigil to mourn the victims of the invasion of Israel by Islamist militant group Hamas.

The vigil followed a Saturday gathering of affiliates at Harvard Hillel, the University’s Jewish center, to support Israeli students and grieve the victims of Hamas’ attack on Israel earlier that morning. Hillel also hosted a dinner on Sunday before the vigil, with Harvard President Claudine Gay and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana among those in attendance.

At around 6:30 a.m. local time Saturday, Hamas invaded southern Israeli towns and military bases outside the Gaza Strip, kidnapping residents and firing thousands of rockets.

As of Monday, Israel’s Army Radio and officials estimate that at least 900 people are dead, with thousands more injured and dozens taken hostage.

Israeli forces have officially declared war on Hamas and retaliated with strikes on Gazan targets, leaving more than 600 Palestinians dead and thousands injured.

The vigil began with a moment of prayer for the Israeli lives lost, followed by speeches from religious leaders from Hillel and Harvard Chabad as well as students whose friends and families were affected by the attacks.

“Tonight our community is coming together to remember the 700 innocent Israelis who were murdered and pray for dozens of people who are held hostage in Gaza right now,” Nim Ravid ’25, a member of Hillel, said during the vigil.

“Seeing students from across the University — both Jews and non-Jews, Chabad and Hillel, brothers and sisters — all together, hugging each other, is incredibly empowering,” Ravid added. “Seeing the University’s leadership — including our president, provost, and Dean Khurana — being here tonight with us on this special night and the events we organize is incredibly powerful.”

Maya Shiloni ’26, one of the organizers of the vigil, said in an interview Monday that members of Hillel were “scrambling” to organize something after learning about the attacks on Israel Saturday morning.

“It happened a couple of hours after we woke up to this crazy reality,” she said. “We tried to make something to support ourselves, the community — we tried to do something to help.”

Shiloni said the vigil was intended to provide a space for people “to unite as a community and grieve together.”

“It was more for us to grieve, to actually do that in the right way and the way we would do it back home, for us to feel connected to what’s happening,” Shiloni said.

Hillel Holiday Chair Zebulon Erdos ’25, who helped organize the vigil, said in an interview that he was inspired by the number of affiliates who attended the vigil.

“I think it was a way of being together in pain and helping to alleviate a tiny, tiny fraction of that pain by the knowledge that we’re out there for each other,” Erdos said.

Vigil attendees stood on the steps of Widener Library and sang traditional Jewish songs at the end of the vigil.
Vigil attendees stood on the steps of Widener Library and sang traditional Jewish songs at the end of the vigil. By Julian J. Giordano

Harvard Chabad President Ben A. Landau ’24, who attended the vigil, described it as “incredibly moving.”

“It’s important to show the rest of the community at Harvard, who might not feel a personal stake in everything that’s going on, how important it is to come together and to also show their support for people who might be more affected than they are,” he said.

Jess L. Jenkins ’26, a Crimson Design editor, said she attended the vigil to “stand in solidarity” with her friends who know victims of the attacks.

The vigil concluded with members of the audience singing songs together, including traditional Jewish songs and the Israeli national anthem.

“It was a really beautiful moment of solidarity in pain and unity in division,” Jenkins said.

—Staff writer Joyce E. Kim can be reached at

Editor’s Note: Readers should note that premoderation has been turned on for online commenting on this article out of concerns for student safety.

—Cara J. Chang, President

—Brandon L. Kingdollar, Managing Editor

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Hillel Vigil on Steps of Widener