Yale Daily News

After news broke of Hamas’s surprise attack against Israel on Saturday, Yale’s Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life canceled its long-standing preparations for Simchat Torah, a holiday celebrating the conclusion of yearly public Torah readings and the last of the Jewish High Holidays.

In response to the attack, the Israeli government launched a series of airstrikes and formally declared war against Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the Gaza Strip. As of Sunday night, at least 700 people have reportedly been killed in Israel and more than 400 in Gaza. Hamas has also taken dozens of Israeli hostages, according to the Associated Press

“In light of the extraordinary, ongoing tragedy in Israel, the Hillel Student Board, in consultation with the rabbis, staff, and students at the Slifka Center, decided that a reflective communal event was the best way for our community to mark Simchat Torah, what is supposed to be one of the most joyous Jewish holidays of the year,” Lia Solomon ’24 and Hannah Edelstein ’24, co-presidents of the Hillel Student Board, wrote to the News alongside Mitchell Dubin ’25, the board’s Shabbat and Holidays chair. 

In place of its planned Simchat Torah “Torah Run” — which has historically been a way for Yale’s Jewish community to celebrate with laughter, dance and music — the community came together on Saturday to discuss the weekend’s events.

Two Slifka Center rabbis, Jason Rubenstein and Alex Ozar GRD ’22, led the conversation. 

“What should have been a celebration of the Torah uniting Jews across the world, was desecrated: hundreds of Israelis were killed and taken captive, and our community at Yale was fragmented between some who followed the news online and others who spent the days in prayer, with no way to reach one another or come together in mutual support,” Rubenstein wrote in a Sunday email addressed to Yale’s Jewish community.

Members of Yalies4Palestine, a campus organization focused on supporting Palestinian human rights, directed the News to a statement posted to its Instagram page on Monday morning.

In both its Monday message and a separate post shared on Sunday afternoon, the group promoted an “All Out for Palestine” rally on the New Haven Green at 3 p.m. Monday.

“Yalies for Palestine stands in solidarity with Palestinian resistance against violent settler colonial oppression. We mourn the tragic loss of civilian lives, and for this we hold the Zionist regime accountable,” Yalies4Palestine wrote in the post. “For 16 years, millions of Palestinians have lived in the open-air prison that is Gaza, where they have suffered a land, sea, and air blockade that restricts movement and amounts to collective punishment that blatantly violates international law.”

While some schools, including the University of Southern California and Vanderbilt University, have released official statements about the conflict in Israel and Gaza, Yale had yet to do so as of Sunday night.

In Sunday night’s email, Rubenstein said that staff members in the Slifka Center will be available to talk to students today from 2 p.m. onward. He also invited all members of the Yale community to a vigil for “mourning and prayer” at the Women’s Table on Monday at 8 p.m. 

This is a developing story and may be updated; the News will cover both the “All Out for Palestine” rally and the Slifka Center’s vigil later this week.

Kaitlyn Pohly is a sophomore in Silliman College. She serves as the Student Life Reporter for the University Desk and previously reported on Student Policy and Affairs. Originally from New York City, Kaitlyn is a History major. Outside of the classroom and the newsroom, Kaitlyn dances with YaleDancers.