Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi said Harvard University is failing to protect the Jewish community at a Hanukkah event attended by embattled president Claudine Gay on Wednesday night.
“It pains me to have to say, sadly, that Jew-hate and anti-Semitism is thriving on this campus,” Zarchi said at the menorah lighting ceremony. “26 years I’ve given my life to this community. I’ve never felt so alone.”
Gay faced calls to be ousted from her position amid controversy following anti-Israel demonstrations and letters circulating on campus and after accusations of plagiarism and a controversial Congressional testimony on anti-Semitism in colleges and universities.
Zarchi said the last time Gay was with his organization was during their annual large Shabbat meal on October 13.
“We heard how Harvard pledges to have our back,” he said recalling what Gay told attendees during that event. “We didn’t feel it last night.”
Zarchi spoke of several instances where he felt he was targeted in recent weeks including during the previous night’s lighting when a woman interrupted and screamed that anti-Semitism is a “hoax.”
The Jewish Harvard Chaplain said he was advised by the Harvard Police to get security to protect his family after hosting a screening of IDF-released footage of Hamas’s atrocities earlier this month.
“The Harvard Police calls our family advising us that we should get security for the night to protect our family, my wife and children, and our students because we’re being accused of hosting a war criminal,” he said. “I don’t feel that they had the back of me and my family and our community.”
Gay was present in the crowd, according to Zarchi, who spoke directly to her during his speech.
“The email referred to you as ‘Our President,’” Zarchi said, referring to a campus-wide email announcing that the board of trustees unanimously decided to keep Gay in her role. “We in the Jewish community are longing for a day that we can refer to the president and all of Harvard as ours too.”
“When they witness hateful calls for the death of Jews, you don’t [walk] by and say nothing,” he added. “You speak, you don’t remain silent.”
Gay made no public statement during the event but lit the shamash, a helper candle used to light the rest of the menorah.
Zarchi revealed for the first time publicly that after their ceremony, the menorah must be removed and hidden to avoid being vandalized.
“The university, since the first Hanukkah, would not allow us to keep this menorah here overnight because there is fear that it will be vandalized,” he said. “We in the Jewish community are instructed ‘we’ll let you have the menorah. You made your point. Okay, pack it up. Don’t leave it out overnight because there will be criminal activity, we fear, and it won’t look good.’”
“You know when change is going to happen on this campus?” he asked. “When we don’t have to pack up the menorah.”
Zarchi is the founder and president of Harvard Chabad where he has served thousands of Harvard students and alumni for 26 years.
The rabbi also spoke out about the lack of support he feels from his fellow chaplains at Harvard.
“When the faculty failed us, when leadership wasn’t speaking in a way that it should have, the chaplains could have made themselves relevant and been the moral voice,” Zarchi said. “This morning I asked where were they to condemn the genocide attack on the Jewish people? Not a word from the Harvard chaplains to this day.”
Zarchi said calls for intifada have been normalized at Harvard.
“They normalized it,” he said. “Completely desensitized and indifferent to the call for murder of Jews.”
During the two intifadas that took place in Israel during the 80s, 90s, and 00s, over a thousand Israeli civilians were murdered by terrorists.
Zarchi and Harvard University did not immediately respond to a request for comment.