Students and faculty received an email from the College on Feb. 24 with warnings of the “national day of hate.” This event was planned by white supremacists and antisemitic groups to target and harm Jewish communities on Saturday, Feb. 25. What started out as a loose threat quickly developed into a nationwide event.
“The broad-based threat has been deemed to be credible on the national level by multiple sources,” Dean of Students Allison Williams stated in the email. “The College immediately began gathering more information from our local and national intelligence and law enforcement sources.”
“It is sadly more the routine for Jewish communities and spaces across the country to field these kinds of vague threats,” shared Ira Blum ‘10, director of Hillel. “At the same time, since there was no indication of a credible threat in our area, I felt that it was necessary to resist the urge to worry, and to worry others, because doing so in my opinion was to fulfill the wishes of these hate groups.”
This extremist event had both a national and local impact. Synagogues and services across the nation enforced heightened security measures. On campus, increased surveillance was implemented via the Department of Campus Safety to protect Jewish organizations and events.
In light of the safety concerns, Campus Safety officers were put on patrol in areas such as the Leffell Center for Jewish Student Life, Congregation Keneseth Israel across the street, the AEPi and ZBT (Jewish fraternity) houses and other various Jewish organizations and events around campus. The presidents and members of these various organizations shared similar concerns for one another.
“As a leader of a Jewish organization on campus and a Jewish-identifying student, I was disturbed but not surprised by the news,” shared Derek Schulman ‘24, president of AEPi. “Unfortunately, there has been a rise in antisemitism across the country. I was concerned for my organization and the safety of all our members. As Jewish students, we always feel like we have a target on our backs. The surge in antisemitism is extremely troubling and I encourage the school administration to dedicate more resources and facilitate conversations with Jewish students about these issues.”
“Many Jewish students on campus feel upset by the lack of support from the administration and want their voices to be heard.”Derek Schulman ‘24
“Right after hearing the news I reached out to everyone in the fraternity to ensure their safety,” said Matt DeGirolamo ‘24, president of ZBT. “Their safety was my top priority and I wanted to make sure that they felt safe during this time. Campus Safety was stationed outside of our house for the entire day which made us feel much better. We also attended the Mule Mitzvah event all together to help support each other during this time to make everyone feel calmer about the situation at hand. Seeing everyone at the event gave us a chance to support both the brothers and the Jewish community on campus as a whole.”
“I was scared because that was the first time I’ve heard of it,” explained Josh Botel ‘25, a member of ZBT. “I looked it up online and thought that it is awful that a day like this could happen in our country. Being in a Jewish fraternity made me concerned about the safety of my fraternity members, but I was glad that Campus Safety took the threat seriously.”
“In moments of distress, it takes a village to find strength, support and stability,” said Blum. “Dean Williams, College Chaplain Rev. Janelle Neubauer and Campus Safety, among others were so helpful in ensuring that there was help when and where we needed it. The College Chaplain attended Shabbat Dinner and checked in with students to see how they were feeling. My staff and I were fielding calls and texts all afternoon, helping to calm anxieties and direct those impacted to campus resources.”
“Unfortunately, it’s something that the Jewish community knows a lot about,” said Eitan Gitlin ‘24, president of Hillel. “Ira spoke with the administration of the school and we increased security around Hillel and around other Jewish organizational spaces. We had Campo [Campus Safety] parked outside of Hillel all throughout the weekend. We always have a check-in system that people have to come in and we had a staff member reviewing everyone.”
“But this day has never been this planned like it is this year.”Eitan Gitlin ’24
Mule Mitzvah was coincidentally held on the same day as the national event. The Student Government Association (SGA) planned the party to help bring the student body together. Additional security was posted outside the door to the event, with Campus Safety officers requiring participants to scan their student ID’s before entering.
Gitlin shared that “It was our second time doing Mule Mitzvah, we did it last year as well. This year we tried to focus on programming, which [was] writing cards to the Jewish Family Services and people who are in nursing homes. SGA sent out an email saying that the event was still happening as a follow up to Dean Williams’ email. We had over 160 students show up and it was a lot of fun. It was a bad coincidence being on the same day of the ‘national day of hate,’ but it ended up being a great event.”
The ‘national day of hate’ ended with no reported antisemitic incidents on campus. While there were no reports of attacks, the distress of the College’s Jewish community was felt nationwide.
“Throughout the weekend, I shared that there is a Jewish value called Pikuach Nefesh,” shared Blum. “Yes it’s hard to pronounce, but the translation is simple, ‘protecting the soul.’ It is the Jewish value that puts human life above practically everything else. In this situation, our individual and collective physical safety is most important, and I know that the College continues to be committed to ensuring our physical safety. At the same time, ‘Pikuach Nefesh’ also means our emotional safety. These moments can trigger lots of challenging feelings, and for those of us who felt them this weekend, know that you are not alone. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your support network, including your peers and the many campus resources available, including Religious and Spiritual Life and the Counseling Center.”