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October 7, 2021 3:01 pm
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Multiple Mezuzahs Torn Down at Indiana University Since High Holidays

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Indiana University Bloomington. Photo Credit: WikiCommons.

Jewish groups at Indiana University, Bloomington (IU) have reported several antisemitic incidents since the Rosh Hashanah, according to a student newspaper report, including repeated vandalism of the ritual scrolls fixed to doorposts.

“Four different mezuzahs have been torn down since the start of our New Year, one of them was torn down twice,” Rabbi Levi Cunin, Director of the IU Chabad House, told the Indiana Student Daily on Monday. “This has to be done intentionally — it’s high up on the door.”

On Sept. 24, Jacob Bohrer, student and president of Alpha Epsilon Pi, informed IU President Pamela Whitten of one student’s mezuzah being torn from the door of her dorm room twice in several days.

“It’s not just specific to Bloomington, it’s around the world,” he told the Daily. “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.”

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Detailing past instances of antisemitism on campus, he recalled an incident in 2019, when two of his brothers at the traditionally Jewish fraternity were assaulted by eleven members of Pi Kappa Phi for trying to enter a party at the Pi Kappa Phi House. In 2020, he added, a driver passing by an outside service heckled at Jewish worshippers.

IU Spokesperson Chuck Carney told the student paper that the incidents do not reflect the university’s values.

“IU-Bloomington has received reports of bias incidents involving antisemitism 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.”

Rabbi Cunin said when he was called about the fourth removing of a mezuzah, he and several other students consoled the targeted student and mounted a new mezuzah to his door.

“It amazes me how much people are willing to step up to the plate and be there for other students,” he 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 hated. We fight hatred with love.”

Indiana Hillel has since publicized its Mezuzah Project, offering to install free mezuzahs for students on campus. The group said Wednesday that it had reached out to the students affected and planned a response to include training for residential staff and other educational programming.

“We are committed to ensuring that our campus remains a safe and welcoming environment that fosters and inspires vibrant Jewish life,” Rabbi Sue Laikin Silberberg said.

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