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Antisemitic Chalkings Mar First Day of Classes at University of Wisconsin-Madison

Antisemitic statements are seen chalked on a sidewalk at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Sept. 7, 2022.

September 14, 2022

On the first day of classes last week, Jewish students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison were startled to discover antisemitic messages drawn in chalk around campus.

Rabbi Mendel Matusof — director of the Chabad at UW — said he received pictures of the drawings from concerned students.

“It said something along the lines of, ‘Zionism is genocide and racism, there are 5 Zionist orgs at UW, blood is on their hands,’ and listed off all the Jewish groups on campus,” Rabbi Matusof told 27 News.

“The statements about Israel themselves are lies and not true, but the most antisemitic part is them associating all American Jews with their perceived notions of the only Jewish state in the world,” he noted.

Rabbi Matusof hopes that Jewish students will not let such hateful rhetoric intimidate them.

“I want all the individual Jewish students who felt threatened and scared to know that the Jewish community stands with them and the entire UW community supports them,” he said.

The University of Wisconsin Hillel Foundation called the chalkings “discriminatory and antithetical to the University of Wisconsin we know and love.”

“Today’s targeting of student organizations because of their connections to Israel is an attack on the identity of Jewish students,” it added. “No student should be targeted because of their identity. Harassment and targeting of Jewish students and their campus organizations are never acceptable at the UW.”

President of Badgers Alliance for Israel (BAFI) Yuval Lerman was quoted by The Daily Cardinal as commenting, “We have no reason to believe that this was a large group of people that were responsible for these incidents, these intimidation threats. We believe it was probably a small group of people that were acting alone.”

In a statement responding to the incident, UW-Madison Vice Chancellor Lori Reesor and Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chief Diversity Officer LaVar J. Charleston said, “To those Jewish students and others affected, we are sorry for the impact this had on your first day of class at UW. We truly strive to create a campus where every student feels they belong, and this kind of messaging harms that goal and aspiration.”

Some felt this message from the UW administration was inadequate, with Hillel Board of Directors member Amanda Peterson telling The Daily Cardinal that the university’s response “could have been better with a call to action and a goal to stop these incidents from happening again.”

According to data compiled by the Milwaukee Jewish Community Relations Council, there were 95 reported incidents of antisemitism statewide in Wisconsin in 2021 — nearly matching 2020’s all-time record-high total of 99.

Category:On Campus