At Northeastern University in Boston, a mezuzah at the campus Hillel was defaced over the weekend of October 16. Hillel, the largest Jewish organization on college campuses across the world, brands itself as the center of Jewish student life on campus. Regarded as a safe space by alumni and current students alike, Hillel is often considered a home away from home for Jewish students.
On Monday, Oct. 18, Jewish students from Northeastern University went to Hillel for morning services. Upon arriving at the building, they noticed the mezuzah had been ripped off of the doorframe. This is not the first time a mezuzah has been defaced on a college campus, however, it appears to be the first time it has happened to a Hillel building.
A study done by Alums for Campus Fairness and Jewish on Campus found that 95% of Jewish students and recent graduates believed antisemitism to be a problem on their own campus. At a time when 69% of Jewish students report avoiding certain places or events at school because they are concerned for their safety as a Jew, Hillel provides a safe environment on campus.
“Without knowing who this person is, are they going to return, what are their motives, with so much unknown, it’s worrying,” said Gilad Skolnick, the executive director of Northeastern Hillel.
Northeastern’s Hillel and Jewish students refuse to hide their Judaism. “We came together to put up a new mezuzah bigger than before. And we’re also now giving out mezuzahs to students who want them, and our goal is to get 100 new mezuzahs put up around campus,” Skolnick said.
The president of Northeastern University, Joseph E. Aoun, swiftly responded to the situation, calling it a “despicable act,” while acknowledging the uptake in antisemitism over the past year.
It is still unclear whether the perpetrator of this incident was a student. However, the Northeastern Jewish community at large has received overwhelming support from the Jewish community.
“I think we can all learn from how the community here reacted after this incident,” said Elie Codron, President of Chabad at Northeastern University. “At the end of the day, the best way to fight antisemitism is with Jewish pride.”
As a known Jewish organization, Hillel has recently been faced with several antisemitic incidents. From attempts to defund Hillel at Rutgers University, to antisemitic graffiti being drawn on posters, the attacks numerous campus Hillel’s have faced are blatantly antisemitic.
Northeastern has been proactive in combating antisemitism on campus. Just last year, Northeastern’s student government adopted the IHRA working definition of antisemitism.
The outpouring support for Northeastern’s Jewish community has made it evident that Jew-hatred has no place on college campuses. As Codron said, “They took one mezuzah down, we put 100 mezuzahs back up.”