Itay Chen, Israeli American with ties to NYC, confirmed killed by Hamas on Oct. 7

Itay Chen
Itay Chen
Hostages and Missing Families Forum

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced Tuesday that Hamas killed Itay Chen, a young dual citizen with ties to New York, during the terror group’s deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023.

Chen was a soldier in the IDF when he was kidnapped by Hamas at the Gaza border during the brutal terror attack on Oct. 7. The terror group has not released Chen’s body to his family. 

According to the Times of Israel, Chen, 19, was listed as one of the 253 hostages abducted by Hamas on Oct. 7. The army’s chief rabbi declared Chen’s death based on findings and new intelligence information, according to the news outlet. 

The killing is another tragic reminder of how the violence halfway across the world is being felt at home, as New Yorkers grapple with increased antisemitism, religious and ideological harassment and other forms of hate since the terror attack led to the war in Gaza last year. 

Biden ‘devastated’

Chen’s father, Ruby Chen, of New York City, never stopped advocating for the safe return of his son and the other hostages.

He appeared frequently in the news over the last four months, urging the United States and others to rally behind the cause of getting the Israeli hostages back home, and often shuffled his time between Israel and Washington, D.C., to meet with politicians.

“We, the U.S. families, have a special voice, and we have the ability to meet Congressmen, senators and policy makers because we are U.S. citizens,” Chen told the Friends of the IDF in February. “We’ve been impacting as much as possible our ability to keep this on top of the agenda of the White House.”

U.S. President Joe Biden released a statement yesterday saying he was devastated to learn that the American was killed during the Oct. 7 assault. He also recounted meeting Chen’s family at the White House where they shared their agonizing experience about missing their relative.

“No one should have to endure even one day of what they have gone through,” Biden said. “At the end of our meeting, they gave me a menorah, a solemn reminder that light will always dispel the darkness, and evil will not win.”

Chen’s death resonates through New York

Gov. Kathy Hochul shared her thoughts on X (formerly Twitter).

“After Hamas’ attacks, thousands were left wondering if their loved ones were safe,” Hochul said. “Until today, we still hoped that New Yorker Itay Chen was alive. I met with Itay’s father, Ruby, in Jerusalem and heard what and incredible young man he was. May his memory be a blessing.” 

Jewish advocates and other New Yorkers expressed sadness and concern over Chen’s death, calling for a stop to antisemitism, which has increased around the city and nationwide since Oct. 7. 

Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, senior rabbi at Central Synagogue in NYC, wrote on Facebook that she is “heartbroken to hear that Itay Chen is now known to have been killed on October 7.”

Many others throughout social media expressed similar sentiments. Last year, comedian Michael Rapaport, who met Ruby Chen, shared Itay’s missing person’s photo on X.

Charles Small, Ph.D, executive director of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy based in NYC, studies and tackles antisemitism in New York, nationwide and around the world.

“I call on all Americans to stand up for democratic principles and human decency,” Small said. “Mr. Chen is a hero, who was not only defending the Jewish people but also democracy worldwide.” 

Small is concerned about anti semitism in schools, and said there is “an explosion of antisemitism in higher education” in the United States, as many American universities receiving “billions” in funding from anti-Israel organizations.

“Of course, we’re now mis-educated,” he said. “We have young people supporting Hamas at our best universities.”

Just this week, the American Jewish Committee criticized Columbia Law School Dean Gillian Lester for what it calls failing to take action against anti-Israel protestors who “threatened and intimidated attendees” at a recent student luncheon.

At the same time, the New York Civil Liberties Union sued Columbia University on March 11 for the “unlawful” suspension of student groups who were protesting on campus in support of Palestine rights last year. 

In January, NYC schools chancellor David Banks rolled out a plan to address antisemitism, which has proliferated in city schools since last year. 

“After engaging with community leaders, staff, families and students, we have put together a comprehensive plan to meet this moment head-on,” the chancellor said in January. “We are taking decisive steps in the areas of education, safety and engagement to ensure that every student and staff member feels valued and welcomed in our schools, irrespective of their background.” 

Nationwide, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, which tracks antisemitic incident data, said antisemitism has increased over the three months since Oct. 7, 2023, reaching 3,291 incidents compared with 712 incidents the previous year.