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Harvard Affiliates Grieve Deaths in Israel-Hamas War at Interfaith Vigil

Harvard Hillel Campus Rabbi Getzel Davis delivered a prayer calling for peace during a Friday vigil organized by the Harvard Chaplains.
Harvard Hillel Campus Rabbi Getzel Davis delivered a prayer calling for peace during a Friday vigil organized by the Harvard Chaplains. By Michelle N. Amponsah
By Michelle N. Amponsah and Emma H. Haidar, Crimson Staff Writers

Dozens congregated at the steps of Memorial Church to grieve at a vigil organized by the Harvard Chaplains on Friday afternoon.

Speakers included Pusey Minister of Memorial Church Matthew Ichihashi Potts, Harvard Hillel Campus Rabbi Getzel Davis, Muslim Chaplain Khalil Abdur-Rashid, and Humanist Chaplain Gregory M. Epstein. University President Claudine Gay, Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana, and Harvard College Dean of Students Thomas Dunne attended the gathering.

The interfaith gathering follows other vigils hosted by Harvard Hillel, Harvard Chabad, and the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee in the weeks and months following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.

The chaplains urged attendees to grieve together and have empathy for the experiences of others, drawing on the teachings of their respective faiths.

“It is an act of courage to stand with others,” Potts said at the beginning of the vigil.

“Because words fail, this will be a brief gathering with some music, more silence, and with the ritual tolling of the church bell, which is dedicated to the dead and which has rung in their blessed memory for over 90 years,” Potts continued.

After Potts’ remarks, Memorial Church assistant University organist and choirmaster David von Behren gave a brief musical meditation on the violin followed by a moment of silence. Abdur-Rashid then read a passage from the Quran and delivered remarks.

“We pray for all of those among us who are grieving, who are experiencing profound loss and who are in need of your blessed embrace,” Abdur-Rashid said.

“We especially pray for our Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students who have faced hatred, assault, attacks, isolation, intimidation, and threats to their lives and livelihoods,” he added.

Davis followed Abdur-Rashid with a prayer calling for peace.

“God, please bring Shalom to our Harvard community. Let us be whole again. A whole is not built in conformity, or groupthink, but rather a deeply thoughtful, compassionate wholeness created from our differences,” Davis said.

“May each of us see the human eyes before us regardless of our religion, political beliefs, and various differences that bring so much to our worlds,” he added.

The vigil comes at a time of intense backlash against Harvard and Gay following a congressional hearing on antisemitism Tuesday. Gay has been particularly criticized for her response to a line of questioning over whether calling for the genocide of Jews would violate Harvard's policies.

Davis called Gay’s testimony “profoundly shocking” in an email to Hillel affiliates Tuesday.

Tammy McLeod, president of the Harvard Chaplains, also delivered a prayer during the vigil.

“Help us grieve together as a community to weep with those who weep. Pour your grace and mercy into our lives, so we can extend that love to others,” McLeod said.

Epstein, the Humanist chaplain, closed the vigil, giving thanks to his colleagues, the Harvard administration, and those who attended the gathering.

At the conclusion of the vigil, the bells of Memorial Church rang 10 times in remembrance of those who have died during the Israel-Hamas war. White roses were distributed to attendees.

—Staff writer Michelle N. Amponsah can be reached at michelle.amponsah@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @mnamponsah.

—Staff writer Emma H. Haidar can be reached at emma.haidar@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @HaidarEmma.

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