In light of rising anti-Semitism on campus, Rutgers Hillel reflects on the 'Night of Broken Glass'
79 years later, members of the Jewish community note the importance of remembering Kristallnacht
Friday marked 79 years since Kristallnacht, an organized attack on Jewish communities that left hundreds dead and thousands in concentration camps. In light of a recent uptick in anti-Semitism on campus, members of the Jewish community elected to recognize the anniversary of the "Night of Broken Glass" differently this year.
In response to recent events on and off campus, Rutgers Hillel invited Joshua Cohen, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), to speak with students about the connection between Kristallnacht and anti-Semitism across the country. The event took place this past Thursday night at Rutgers Hillel on the College Avenue campus and was intended only for students.
The discussion covered the recent discovery of swastikas graffitied around College Avenue, while also focusing on controversial social media posts made by Michael Chikindas, a professor in the Department of Food Sciences.
Max DuBoff, the event organizer and School of Arts and Sciences junior, said the types of anti-Semitism that are being seen now are far removed from where they once were. These attacks are much less overt but are no less important in finding effective ways to confront anti-Semitism across all universities.
“Kristallnacht, in particular, was a weave of organized violence and vandalism, and we’re still seeing vandalism now,” he said.
Having a good relationship with local authorities was not always possible and is significantly important, DuBoff said. Informing University authorities and the New Brunswick Police Department about the situation allows them to respond quicker and more effectively to future incidents.
Throughout the event, Cohen spoke about how important it is for students to take action into their own hands. He said it is on them to spread the word, organize events and urge the University to condemn any acts of anti-Semitism on campus.
Cohen assigned groups of students different scenarios detailing incidents of anti-Semitism and asked how each person would respond. One of the proposed scenarios was a Jewish fraternity being vandalized on campus.
The Daily Targum reported on a similar incident in 2003 where swastikas were found spray-painted outside of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi and the Hillel House prior to its move onto the College Avenue campus.
Historically, vandalism and threats have been used as a common way to intimidate Jewish people, DuBoff said. Last year’s weave of bomb threats is reminiscent of the violence seen at synagogues, as places where Jews congregate have long been targets for violence.
DuBoff said these instances of vandalism on campus are indicative of a larger trend. While finding swastikas in a residence hall room is not to be minimized, he said it is a different circumstance to find one posted in such a visual place on campus.
“I would say that any time there is an anti-Semitic incident or an incident against any other group we need to be concerned and vigilant, but we're not in panic mode,” he said. “Which is good, we don't want to be in panic mode obviously, and we don't feel like we're at that point.”
Cohen said the ADL tracks and monitors anti-Semitic incidents in the public sphere and in private sectors. He said they have noted an increase in instances across the country with a concentration on college campuses.
Despite this increase, they have noticed a number of students ready to report incidents as they happen, Cohen said. Students who reject anti-Semitism, hate and bigotry are more likely to report these instances and are more likely to get the University involved.
“I think it’s imperative that when incidents of anti-Semitism or any incident of hate or bigotry happens, that we not be bystanders, that we be up-standers,” he said. “Incidents of hate and bigotry demand an expeditious response by everyone on campus, whether that’s students, administrators or law enforcement.”