Skip to main content Skip to search

YU News

YU News

Words of Strength, Prayer and Support at YU’s Evening of Unity, Solidarity and Story

“On Oct. 7, Jewish history called. It has asked us to stand up and stand out as Jews. It has asked us to fight terrorism and combat hatred. It has asked us to protest, to not remain silent or complacent, to unify and unite in common cause to free our hostages. It asked us on Oct. 7 and it is still asking that of us now."

Rachel Goldberg-Polin addressing the crowd

Those were among the powerful words delivered by Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University, at the Evening of Unity, Solidarity and Story event held on April 7, 2024, the six-month anniversary of the brutal Hamas attack on southern Israel.

Over 1,000 members of the YU community and guests were in attendance to show their support for Israel and to advocate that the 133 hostages still being held captive by Hamas be freed. The special evening of shira [song], tefilah [prayer], and chizuk [strength] was hosted by YU’s Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks-Herenstein Center for Values and Leadership and the Office of Student Life, with assistance from the Office of Events. The Beren Campus Student Government helped sponsor the evening.

Dr. Erica Brown, vice provost for values and leadership and director of the Sacks-Herenstein Center, opened the evening with a charge that students continue to protest, pray and advocate. Rabbi Berman, as president of the flagship Jewish university, inspired those in attendance to stand strong and continue the ongoing struggle to help free the hostages. Rebecca Henner ‘26S, spoke about the various YU initiatives that have taken place on and off YU’s campuses, including Operation Torah Shield, the Yeshiva University Political Action Committee mission to Washington D.C. and the Sacks-Herenstein Center Solidarity Mission to Israel.

Louis Har (2nd from right) with his daughter, son-in-law and Rabbi Shay Schachter

The community was honored to hear from Rachel Goldberg-Polin, mother of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who is still being held captive by Hamas. She spoke passionately about her son and encouraged all parties involved to reach a hostage deal so the Jewish people can celebrate true freedom during Passover. She also expressed gratitude for all that YU students have been doing to keep Israel and the hostages a primary concern in the diaspora. Her husband, Jon, then led the attendees in the recitation of Psalm 130 and also pushed for political action towards a hostage deal.

Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman addressing the audience

After singers Daniel Israel ‘20SB,’25R, Josh Shapiro ‘25YC and Noam Schoenfeld ‘25YC performed, the attendees then heard an address by Louis Har who was rescued from Hamas captivity in a daring mission by IDF soldiers on February 12, 2024. Har was joined by his family onstage, including his daughter Natalie Har, and spoke about the horrors he experienced while being held by Hamas and the sense of jubilation he felt when he was rescued.

The event concluded with Kfir Slonimski ‘25YC, a current student and IDF veteran, reading “The Silver Platter,” a poem by Natan Altermann about the sacrifices made for the State of Israel, followed by dancing and singing - showcasing that, even in times of darkness, the Jewish people are able to find light and bring light.

Jon Polin speaking at the event

"The hostage solidarity event on April 7 was a beautiful evening of song, speeches, and unity at a time of prolonged crisis in Israel,” said Dr. Brown. “We were inspired and charged by Jon and Rachel Goldberg-Polin to continue protesting and praying and were motivated by the rescue story of Louis Har and his family to continue the fight. His rescue is nothing short of a miracle and a reminder that miracles do indeed happen still. We have to do our part to help make those miracles happen."

The event was covered on local television newscasts later that evening on ABC 7 New York, Fox 5 New York and PIX 11, all of which sent reporters to interview Har and Rabbi Berman, and featured footage from the event on their telecasts. YU would like to offer special thanks to the New York City Police Department and YU’s Office of Security for their help in keeping the event secure and safe.