Jewish community organizes vigil for Israeli hostages in Gaza About 60 students, faculty and New Haven residents joined last Friday in an hour-long vigil for Israeli hostages still held in Gaza. The demonstration featured a Shabbat table set for each of the hostages as well as speeches and readings from students. Words by Nora Moses. Photos by Ellie Park.

Last Friday, members of Yale’s Jewish community set the table to honor the 136 Israeli hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza and heard from Yale community members directly affected by the war.

The demonstration, which took place on Cross Campus at noon, was organized by members of Yale’s Jewish community but not associated with any particular organization. The gathering, which also included student speeches and readings of the testimonies of former hostages, was attended by around 60 students, faculty and New Haven residents. Two members of Yale Security were also present.

“[We] decided to organize this Shabbat table in solidarity with the hostages to raise awareness that after 126 days there are still 136 hostages being held in Gaza, away from their families and in harsh conditions,” Eytan Israel ’26, one of the organizers of the event, wrote to the News. “We hope that the wider community will stand with us as we mourn and stand in solidarity with the hostages.”

During Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, Hamas killed 1,200 people and took around 250 as hostages. Around 100 hostages were freed during a week-long ceasefire in November, and per reporting from the Associated Press on Feb. 12, Israel says Hamas continues to hold about 100 more hostages. Israel also says that Hamas is holding the remains of roughly 30 others who were either killed on Oct. 7 or died in captivity.

The event on Cross Campus featured a long table, where each chair had the photo and name of a hostage. The table was set for Shabbat, the Jewish religious observance that begins each Friday at sundown.

“If they were home in Israel right now, tonight they would be able to have Shabbat dinner with their families — something they haven’t been able to do in months,” said Sammy Rosenberg ’26, another student organizer.

The speech began with an introduction from Israel, who spoke about the reasons for the demonstration. After him, Aaron Schorr ’24 addressed the group.

Schorr spoke about his childhood friend Hersh Goldberg-Polin, a 23-year-old who was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, and his schoolmate and neighbor Aner Shapira, who was killed during Hamas’ attack on the Nova music festival that same day.

Photos by Ellie Park, Photography Editor.

“My speech at the rally was designed to get a simple message across: returning Hersh and 135 others to safety is not about politics; it is about humanity,” Schorr said. “There are lots of political conversations that also need to be happening on this campus, but returning innocent people home should be a priority for anyone who claims to care about justice.”

Organizers then read the names and ages of the 136 Israelis still held in Gaza, as well as readings of four testimonies from hostages who were returned to Israel of their experience in captivity. Between each of the testimonies, attendees sang Hebrew songs “of hope and peace,” according to Israel. The event finished with prayers for the hostages’ safety and immediate return.

Mika Bardin ’26 also spoke at the vigil about friends and relatives of hers who have been affected by the Oct. 7 attack. Bardin wrote to the News that she had not wanted to speak but felt it to be her obligation.

“I speak for my little cousins who watch bombs fly over [their] house, I speak for my grandparents who have devoted their lives as peace activists and still roll in their wheelchairs to every rally for those kidnapped, and I speak for my dad who just finished his survey in Gaza,” said Bardin. “I spoke for my friend Shani and her close friend Jonathan who was murdered and had his dead body kidnapped. I speak for those who can’t so that the few passing by who choose to listen can hear their suffering.”

Shabbat lasts from sundown on Friday until an hour after sundown on Saturday.

Contact Nora Moses at