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Students, city respond to anti-Semitic damages

By Jake New and Michael Auslen | IDS, Indiana Daily Student
December 1, 2010

Senior Leah Myhre was asleep in her apartment above the Chabad House Jewish Student Center when a loud thud awoke her Tuesday morning.

One of four IU students living there, Myhre exited her room to find the other girls doing the same, wondering what had happened.

A rock had crashed through the window, nearly striking her roommate, Maggie Williams, as she sat writing a paper. The palm-sized rock hit the wall across the room, leaving a hole in the dry wall.

“It was really terrifying,” Myhre said. “It’s not something you expect is going to happen. But when we saw the rock, we all knew what had just happened because of what happened last week to the building as well as Hillel.”

Five anti-Semitic attacks in Bloomington since Nov. 23 have caught IU students and city residents off guard.

“It’s not an understatement to say our reaction is outrage,” Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan said. “It’s both sad and disturbing how one distinct individual can do such disturbing things to an entire community.”

The criminal acts of the past week included rocks thrown through windows at Jewish organizations and through a display case at the Robert A. and Sandra B. Borns Jewish Studies Program office, as well as vandalism of Hebrew texts from the Herman B Wells Library.

In the 24 hours since the attack, Myhre said she and her roommates, none of whom are Jewish, have been wary of going near windows and moving around outside the building.

“It’s scary,” she said. “Someone could really get injured and without any warning.”
Myhre said not only is she surprised that the vandalism happened to her apartment, but that it  occurred at IU at all.

“It’s hard to believe that this happened on this campus, that it happened in Bloomington,” she said. “I really hope they find the culprit so something like this doesn’t happen again.”

Bloomington Safe and Civil City Director Beverly Calendar-Anderson said she finds the situation disconcerting.

“The initial reaction is that we are appalled that a person or persons would terrorize people based on their religious beliefs,” Calendar-Anderson said.

Though the attacks were aimed at Jewish organizations on or near the IU campus, Kruzan said they affect community members.

“We’re all victimized when one person is targeted,” he said.

In the aftermath of the incidents, the Bloomington and IU police departments have worked closely to find the vandals and prevent further incidents, Capt. Joe Qualters of the Bloomington Police Department said.

Both Kruzan and Calendar-Anderson said Bloomington’s image as a tolerant city is not affected by incidents such as these.

“When you have people do something opposite of that (Bloomington’s reputation as a tolerant place), I don’t know that it damages the reputation of the city because the majority of people appreciate diversity in all forms,” she said.

Senior Alana Gardner said she was surprised and saddened after hearing about the attacks.

“I’m at the Chabad House every week,” Gardner said. “It’s a second home to me. To hear that and about what’s happening everywhere else, I’m pretty shocked and disgusted.”

Gardner said she is afraid of how some students will interpret the acts, particularly freshmen who don’t know IU as well.

“This is not the start of a movement,” she said. “Nothing to this extent has happened while I’ve been here. I just hope people remember that this is not what IU’s about.”

Sitting in Wells library, senior Dustin Bernstein said he was upset but not overly concerned after the vandalism — initially.

“It was disappointing, but it was just one act,” he said. “But then I’m reading now that it’s happening again, now at Hillel, now in the library where I’m at almost every day, and it started to sink in. There are still ignorant people. There is still hatred. It really hit home. This is hatred.”

Bernstein said he thinks it’s important that Bloomington’s Jewish community doesn’t let the attacks affect how they celebrate Hanukkah, which began Wednesday night.

“One thing I’ve learned, in Hebrew and Sunday school, is that you should never be afraid to celebrate Hanukkah, especially now,” he said. “If you do that, then whoever is doing this, he won.”

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