Jewish institutions around campus alerted IU President Pamela Whitten about an increase in antisemitic incidents since the beginning of the Jewish New Year last month.
Jacob Bohrer, Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi president, notified President Whitten about a Jewish student’s mezuzah being torn from her dorm room door at the McNutt Quad Sept. 24. The student’s mezuzah was torn down again days later.
“We put mezuzahs on our doors, which is a very old, common custom,” Bohrer said. “You’re supposed to touch the mezuzah every time you walk in or out of your room.”
Bohrer said a mezuzah is a scroll that Jewish people affix to their doors as a symbol of God’s presence.
“A mezuzah is a symbol of Jewish pride,” Levi Cunin, rabbi and director of the IU Chabad House, said. “Four different mezuzahs have been torn down since the start of our New Year, one of them was torn down twice. This has to be done intentionally — it’s high up on the door.”
Bohrer said a number of other antisemitic incidents have occurred during his time on campus. During his freshman year, he said two members of his fraternity were involved in a fight because they were Jewish.
On other occasions, the IU Hillel and IU Chabad houses have been vandalized or yelled at during services. Bohrer said there was an incident last year where a passing car yelled out inflammatory language during an outside service.
“It’s not just specific to Bloomington, it’s around the world,” Bohrer said. “Ten percent of our campus population are Jews, which is a lot of kids. I’m not sure why the school has not come out with a statement, which is why I emailed President Whitten.”
IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said any actions jeopardizing the safety or security of IU students will be swiftly addressed, and the Division of Student Affairs, Residential Programs and Services and IU Hillel are working together on comprehensive education efforts to address these incidents.
“IU-Bloomington has received reports of bias incidents involving anti-Semitism in the residence halls that do not reflect IU’s commitment to equitable and inclusive environment for people from all backgrounds,” Carney said. “We ask the IU community to join us in shaping a campus where everyone feels welcome, respected and comfortable no matter their race, ethnicity, identity, political or religious beliefs.”
When Cunin received a phone call about the fourth incident, he said he went to the student’s dorm room in Foster Quad in order to help them put a new mezuzah on their door. He said despite it being after midnight, seven people were there to support this student.
“It amazes me how much people are willing to step up to the plate and be there for other students,” Cunin said. “The way you dispel darkness is with a little bit of light. Obviously we want these hate crimes taken seriously, but over here we don’t fight hatred with more hate. We fight hatred with love.”
Bias incidents can be reported to IU through this online form.