Indiana University Hillel Opens New Jewish Culture Center After Academic Year Marred by Campus Antisemitism Spike
The Hillel at Indiana University has opened a new Jewish Culture Center as part of its response to a spate of antisemitic incidents on the Bloomington campus this academic year, WRTV Indianapolis reported.
The establishment of the center was a request of a student task force set up to address rising Jew-hatred.
“It’s really important to work together as a community to learn more about each other and to promote understanding because I think once we get to know each other, we can celebrate our differences, as opposed to being afraid of them,” IU Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Sue Laikin Silberberg said.
The purpose of the center is to offer students opportunities to recognize and develop their leadership potential and connect with Judaism in many traditional and creative ways.
“Judaism is really more than a religion,” Rabbi Silberberg noted. “It’s a culture, it’s a way of life, it’s a community.”
“In my mind, the more that people learn about Judaism, then that’s really the way to break down barriers and to promote understanding and so hopefully, to decrease antisemitism,” she said.
Last fall, there were at least a dozen cases of mezuzahs being stolen from Indiana University dormitory room doors, a trend that started around the Jewish High Holidays in September.
And in February, Indiana University Police opened an investigation into a series of extreme antisemitic comments posted online targeting Jewish students and fraternities, including one calling to “get them off our campus,” and another exhorting, “Take them back to gas chambers where they belong. Boycott all the Jewish houses.”
Rabbi Silberberg said such hate had become more “commonplace.”
“I think it has become a little bit more acceptable over the last few years to both say and act upon horrible ideas and stereotypes, (things that were) at least not acceptable to do before,” she added.
In March, hundreds of red mezuzahs bearing the message “I stand with my Jewish friends” were placed on door frames across the Indiana University Bloomington campus in a public show of solidarity.