Reeling from the war in Israel and Gaza, Jewish students and supporters of Israel gather in solidarity

Students gathered on Northeastern's Boston campus for Israel vigil.
At Cabot Quad on the Boston campus, hundreds of students gather in solidarity and express support for all those affected by the war in Israel and Gaza. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

This report is part of ongoing coverage of the Israel-Hamas war. Visit our dedicated page for more on this topic.

Northeastern Hillel student president Julia Gilinsky is heartbroken. 

Her heart aches for her Israeli brothers and sisters who are fighting for their lives after Saturday’s surprise cross-border attack by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group.

“This hits close to home because Israel is our home, our nation, the land of the Jewish people, and the place that takes us with open arms,” she told hundreds of supporters of Israel who gathered in solidarity Tuesday night at Cabot Quad on the Boston campus. 

Many of those in attendance at the student-led gathering wore blue and white to symbolize the Israeli flag. 

“The pictures of houses burning, rockets flying and murdered civilians have left us with terrible sadness and a feeling of powerlessness,” Gilinksy said. “However, in the face of adversity, we have shown time and time again that our community remains a place of support and resilience.”

Organized by several student groups

The gathering of solidarity was organized by several student groups at Northeastern, including Huskies for Israel, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Zeta Beta Tau (Jewish fraternities), Chabad at Northeastern, and Northeastern Hillel. 

“We’re in the midst of one of the most pivotal events in modern Jewish history,” said Magnus Steinberg, student president of Chabad Northeastern. “Today I saw the death toll is now over a thousand with hundreds of innocent civilians kidnapped.” 

Steinberg noted the atrocities of the past few days and encouraged students to show their Judaism proudly and to call out acts of antisemitism when they see it. 

“If you aren’t normally a kippah-wearing Jew, please wear your kippah,” he said. “It’s to show Jewish pride, unity and that we’re not afraid. If Jews in Israel and Jews from all around the world who are flocking to Israel are brave enough to do this, then we should be brave enough to be openly Jewish and be proud of our Judaism.”

Wearing a blue quarter-zip pullover and a kippah, Matthew Garchik, a third-year business and computer sciences major, said he attended Tuesday’s gathering because “Israel is in my heart all the time.” 

“I had family in Israel that had to evacuate their kibbutz,” he said. “I want to show my support for Israel.”

‘Community is really important to us’

Jacob Kline, a third-year computer sciences major, was heartened by the fact that various student groups on campus came together to organize the gathering of solidarity. 

“I think it speaks to the Jewish community as a whole,” he said. “I think this is not uncommon for the Jewish community to come together in times of mourning or in times of need. … Community is really important to us.” 

Rabbi Sara Paasche Orlow, executive director of Northeastern Hillel, said students came up with the idea to hold Tuesday’s event while they were gathered at Northeastern Hillel’s building on campus. She said over the past three days 15 to 30 students have headed there every night. 

“The goal and the role of Hillel is to support Northeastern students on campus,” Paasche Orlow said. “When the news came out on Saturday morning, our first response was to be here as students received the terrible news and be able to provide support and compassion.” 

“We had our doors open and we were here with students on Saturday afternoon, Sunday afternoon, and Monday afternoon and evening,” she said. “On Saturday, after a number of hours of students being here, they decided they wanted to hold this gathering on campus in order to show solidarity with each other and with the Jewish community around the world and with Israel.”

This hits close to home because Israel is our home, our nation, the land of the Jewish people, and the place that takes us with open arms.

Julia Gilinsky, the Northeastern Hillel student president

Support and solidarity from senior leadership

On Tuesday morning, President Joseph E. Aoun sent an email to the Northeastern community expressing support and solidarity to all those affected by the war in Israel and Gaza.

The message was also signed by David Madigan, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, and Kenneth Henderson, chancellor and senior vice president for learning.

“The terror and bloodshed inflicted by Hamas’s attacks on Israel are cause for the deepest sorrow and most vehement condemnation. As war now ravages Gaza and Israel, we mourn for all the innocent lives that have been lost,” the message read.

The message noted that three students who had been in Israel at the time of the attacks are “safe and secure.” 

“Northeastern is a global community of learning, and our fundamental values are rooted in knowledge over hate, harmony over division, and reason over brutality. These values will continue to guide us as we move forward together,” Aoun and his colleagues said. 

Every evening this week, Hillel will be holding a community gathering for prayer and reflection from 6-8 p.m. Rabbi Jacob Weiss and Paasche Orlow will also have open hours this week.

“I know it might not be obvious to other people why this feels close to home, but the Jewish community is a relatively small community,” Paasche Orlow said. “We are a people. We are looking out for each other and we have friends and family around the globe.”  

Cesareo Contreras is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @cesareo_r and Threads @cesareor.