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Harvard Chabad Holds Vigil for Shooting at California Synagogue

Harvard Yard.
Harvard Yard. By Amy Y. Li
By Ruth Zheng, Crimson Staff Writer

Roughly 60 Harvard affiliates gathered at the Harvard Chabad House Sunday evening in solidarity with the Chabad of Poway, Calif., where a deadly shooting took place Saturday.

Hirschy Zarchi, Jewish chaplain and Rabbi at Harvard Chabad, organized the vigil along with his wife, Elkie Zarchi. Speakers at the gathering included University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76; MIT Jewish chaplain Menachem Altein; Jewish chaplain and Rabbi at Harvard Hillel Jonah C. Steinberg; Jewish chaplain and Rabbi at Harvard Hillel, and International Jewish Student Center of Boston Directors Berel Grunblatt and Esther L. Grunblatt.

On Saturday, a gunman shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire in the Chabad of Poway, killing one and wounding three. Several of the victims had left Israel for America to escape regional violence. Police took the suspect, a 19-year-old man, into custody and charged him with one count of first degree murder.

The attack took place exactly six months after the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Penn. in October. Saturday is also the Jewish Sabbath and was the last day of Passover.

Zarchi, the first to speak, said Saturday morning’s tragedy should be an opportunity for recalling what unites the Jewish community. He described Judaism as an affirmation of life and pledged to redouble Chabad’s efforts to promote and protect Jewish values.

“Poway, Pittsburgh, or Jerusalem, when Jews are targeted simply for being Jewish, those who hate us do not differentiate based on other labels. But at the same time, we must not give into panic or bitterness,” Zarchi said.

Several speakers acknowledged Saturday’s proximity to recent acts of violence in Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Garber said he thinks recent hate-driven massacres of Muslims and Christians in addition to anti-Semitic acts “have contributed to a feeling that this is a time of deep division.”

“There has never been a more important time to show what resilient and loving communities can do,” Garber said.

He added that Chabad represents the “best of what we are.”

Garber also read out loud a statement on behalf of University President Lawrence S. Bacow, who could not attend due to a conflict, extending his support to members of Chabad and those affected by the shooting.

Both Zarchi and Steinberg said the tragedy could turn into an opportunity to celebrate faith.

“We’re here in sorrow and outrage and anger, and I want to say that I’m here in joy at what this community is and what we can be,” Steinberg said.

—Staff writer Ruth Zheng can be reached at

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