(September 10, 2021 / JNS) Tufts University Police Department has launched an investigation after a student reported that the mezuzah affixed to his dorm room was stolen on Sept. 4.
According to the school, the student was awakened by laughter and other sounds in the early hours of Saturday morning. It was only later that he discovered the mezuzah was missing.
“Regardless of intent, the removal of this important symbol of Jewish faith is anti-Semitic and has caused harm,” said Tufts president Tony Monaco in a letter to students. “This is a moment from which we can all learn. All members of our community should feel comfortable displaying and expressing their faith, and all members of our community should respect those displays and expressions. We are all responsible to each other.”
He added that the university has not yet been able to identify the person or people responsible.
The group Jewish on Campus, which encourages college students to speak out against anti-Semitism, posted an account of the incident from the student on an anonymous basis.
In the post, the student wrote, “In the middle of the night on my first Shabbat of the year, a group of students walked by my room making a lot of noise; it sounded like they were banging on the wall or my door. Eventually, I heard one of them rip the mezuzah off the doorpost, and the rest of the group laughed. I was too afraid to leave my room until well into the morning.”
This incident came days after university officials announced a new initiative to faculty and staff that seeks to, as Monaco wrote in his letter to students, “understand how anti-Semitism manifests itself at Tufts.”
“This initiative includes focus groups and a survey of all undergraduate students that will go out next week,” he wrote. “Your participation in this process will help us fulfill the initiative’s goal of understanding anti-Semitism at Tufts better and proposing concrete suggestions on how to address it.”
According to the AMCHA Initiative, a watchdog group that records incidents of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activism on campus, from 2015 until late May 2021, there were 65 recorded incidents of anti-Semitic activity at Tufts University, many of which were categorized as “anti-Semitic expression.”
“It is disturbing that a Jewish student has already experienced an act of anti-Semitism. The timing of this incident, at the very outset of the semester, raises serious concerns about how the Tufts administration will respond to such hateful acts,” said StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein. “While it is promising that the administration has launched an initiative to investigate how anti-Semitism manifests on campus in order to better address it, last fall’s anti-Semitic Deadly Exchange campaign and attempts by Tufts SJP to remove a Zionist student from the student judiciary due to his identity should have been indication enough.”
She said her organization calls on administrators “to ensure that its investigation into these incidents and this new initiative will result in serious, concrete measures to address anti-Semitism, including its anti-Zionist manifestations, on campus.”
In response to the theft, Tufts Hillel reminded students that it offers a “mezuzah bank” to help students obtain their own mezuzah.
“Such cowardly and anti-Semitic acts have no place on our campus,” wrote Rabbi Naftali Brawer, the Neubauer executive director of Tufts Hillel, and Allison Cohen, the student president on Facebook. “We want you to know that Tufts Hillel is here to support you and to advocate for you. If you would like to affix a mezuzah on your dorm or house door, you can get one at Hillel.”
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