Following anti-Semitic graffiti, watchdog groups ask Schapiro to take further steps to protect Jewish students

Tyler Pager, Campus Editor

A group of 23 anti-Semitism watchdog groups sent a letter to University President Morton Schapiro on Tuesday asking him to take additional steps to combat anti-Semitism at Northwestern in light of the recent incidents of swastikas on campus.

The authors said they were concerned with Schapiro’s email to the NU community after police found two swastikas in University Library.

Earlier this month, a swastika was found on the wall of the men’s bathroom on the fourth floor of the library. Four days later, police said a swastika was discovered in a third-floor study room in the library.

“While we are pleased that you issued a statement, we are concerned that your message neglected to publicly acknowledge that a swastika is an anti-Semitic symbol associated with genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people,” the letter said.

The authors asked Schapiro to take four steps to prevent future anti-Semitic messages on campus. They recommended he publicly acknowledge that swastika graffiti is an anti-Semitic act and publicly pledge to educate University staff in recognizing anti-Semitic hate crimes.

Additionally, they urged Schapiro to have NU adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism and designate resources to educating students about discrimination against Jews.

Tannenbaum-Chabad House Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein said the letter to Schapiro was a reminder that discrimination against the Jewish community isn’t new.

“Unfortunately, this is an act that takes place quite often on college campuses including our own,” he said. “I’m happy that national Jewish organizations have taken notice and are concerned about that here at Northwestern.”

The letter said more than 18 college campuses have reported incidents of swastikas in the last year.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of the AMCHA Initiative, an organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism on college campuses, said this was the fifth or sixth letter she has been involved in sending to university leaders in the past few weeks.

“We have seen an alarming increase in campus anti-Semitism over the last year,” she said. “We’ve seen a real increase in the type of anti-Semitic graffiti that were found at Northwestern.”

Schapiro responded to the letter Tuesday afternoon, saying he appreciated the suggestions, but was not concerned about any threats to the safety of Jewish students on campus.

“If we believed that a threat did exist to Jewish students — or any other students — we would take the appropriate actions in order to ensure the continued safety of our students,” Schapiro wrote in an email to Rossman-Benjamin obtained by The Daily.

He added NU has a vibrant Jewish community and the University has increased its commitment to the academic study of Jewish history through the Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies.

Rossman-Benjamin said the group was pleased Schapiro took their recommendations into consideration.

“(The letter) wasn’t really a criticism of him so much as was sharing our experiences about the growth of anti-Semitism on campuses, its linkage to certain kinds of behavior on campus and a set of best practices for how address future acts of anti-Semitic bigotry,” she said.

This story was updated April 21 at 10:50 p.m. with comment from Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @tylerpager