Taking Appropriate Precautions: Jewish Community at Indiana University Is On Alert after Anti-Semitic Incidents

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace] – Updated December 3, 2010

As the Jewish community prepared to celebrate Chanukah, the Jewish community at Indiana University Bloomington had to deal with the stresses of a pair of rock throwing incidents that damaged the buildings of two Jewish institutions.

On November 29, JTA reported:

“A rock was thrown through the back window of the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center, which is located on campus, on November 27. Earlier in the week, a rock was thrown through the back window of the Chabad Jewish student center located just outside the campus.

“Bloomington city police and campus police are investigating whether the attacks are related.

“Glass from the broken window of the Chabad house did damage to the building’s worship center, the group’s president, Alex Groysman, told the Indiana Daily Student newspaper.”

Hillel Director Rabbi Sue Silberberg told Community, “The issue is being addressed. I’ve been in contact with Indiana University Chief of Police Keith Cash. They are taking all the appropriate steps. … They’re doing everything they need to do and more in order to catch [the person or people who did this] and make the environment safe.”

“The university administration has always been supportive of Jewish life on campus and they continue to be,” she added. “The university is doing all they can to make it a safe environment for students on campus.”

On December 1, JTA reported three additional incidents:

“A rock was thrown Tuesday morning through the window of an apartment above the Chabad Jewish student center, nearly hitting a student and putting a hole in the opposite wall. Four non-Jewish students live in the Chabad apartment.

“Less than an hour later, a rock was thrown at the staff directory glass display case for the Robert A. and Sandra B. Borns Jewish Studies Program, causing damage.

“On Monday evening, eight religious volumes in Hebrew removed from shelves at a university library were urinated on in eight different bathrooms in the library area, according to reports.

“Although no students have approached his office, Dean of Students Pete Goldsmith said he and his office are reaching out to the Jewish community and offering their support.

“‘It’s something that shouldn’t happen in the university community,’ Goldsmith told the Indiana Daily Student newspaper. ‘It’s a place of tolerance.’

“Uniform and plainclothes police officers have stepped up their presence around the vandalized areas, according to reports. The FBI has been brought in, since they appear to be hate crimes.

“Bloomington police reportedly have a description of a suspect, allegedly seen at the site of one of the incidents. Reportedly it is a bearded male aged 40 to 50.”

Rabbi Silberberg also said a meeting with Bloomington United was scheduled for Thursday evening (after Community went to press) to help plan a response. “Hillel helped found Bloomington United 10 or 11 years ago,” she said. “It is a grassroots group that is a combination of university and town people from a variety of organizations and offices on campus and in the community who help to respond to hate activity in the community.

Rabbi Yehoshua Chincholker, the head of the Chabad center, said his group is also working with the police. They’ve also been in contact with Chabad in New York’s global security officer and the Anti-Defamation League. “Tell parents not to be afraid,” he said.

In fact, Chabad is planning a public menorah lighting on Sunday, December 5, to celebrate Chanukah with joy. “There will be additional security,” Rabbi Chincholker said, but “we will use the rock that was thrown at us as the base for the shamash. The same rock that was used to intimidate us, we will use to illuminate us.”

Updates will be available here as we receive them.

UPDATE December 3, JCL reports:

Chabad is having a Menorah lighting this Sunday at 6:00 P.M. at the Chabad House, 518 East Seventh Street, and the entire community is encouraged to go as a show of solidarity.

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