Harvard Rabbi Reveals He Must Hide Menorah During Hanukkah

In a heartfelt video shared on social media, Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi, the founder and president of Harvard Chabad, expressed his disappointment at being asked to hide the campus menorah each night of Hanukkah. The request came from Harvard administrators who cited concerns about potential vandalization or criminal activity targeting the menorah. Rabbi Zarchi emphasized the Jewish community’s longing for a day when Harvard supports their traditions and allows them to display the menorah without fear.

Hanukkah, a significant Jewish holiday, spans eight nights and concludes on Friday. However, Rabbi Zarchi revealed that he was instructed to bring the menorah inside at night due to Harvard administrators’ worries about the optics of an antisemitic incident occurring on campus. This concern arose in the aftermath of the October 7 Hamas attack, which has led to a surge in antisemitic activity at colleges across the nation.

Rabbi Zarchi voiced his frustration, stating, “In the Jewish community, we are told, ‘You can display the menorah to make your point, but please pack it up afterward. Leaving it out overnight raises concerns about potential criminal activity, and it doesn’t present a positive image.”

He went on to highlight the challenges faced by Jewish students, recounting a conversation with the current dean of students who shared a student’s fear of displaying their Jewish identity openly. Rabbi Zarchi emphasized the need for change, stating, “You know when change will happen on this campus? When we don’t have to pack up the menorah.”

These remarks come in the wake of Harvard president Claudine Gay’s controversial testimony at a House hearing on campus antisemitism. President Gay, along with presidents from the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, faced criticism for failing to explicitly condemn calls for genocide against Jews as violations of their respective university codes of conduct. While Magill, the University of Pennsylvania president, stepped down in response to the backlash, Gay and Kornbluth, the president of MIT, have retained their positions with the support of their respective boards.

Rabbi Zarchi’s speech concludes with a message of hope, as he envisions a future where the light of the Hanukkah candles eliminates the darkness, transforming Harvard’s community into a beacon of light for all students and the world.

The rabbi’s words shed light on the ongoing challenges faced by the Jewish community at Harvard and the importance of fostering a campus environment where religious traditions can be celebrated openly without fear or hesitation.