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UK Jewish Student Center hosts talk on anti-Semitism following number of targeted incidents

Published: May. 2, 2021 at 10:15 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the state and on the University of Kentucky’s campus has led to action.

UK students and leaders had a virtual discussion on anti-Semitism Sunday.

Rabbi Shlomo Litvin, the director of the Chabad of the Bluegrass Jewish Student Center, discussed its history and how to confront it.

He said Jewish students needed encouragement before the school year ended. He and other campus leaders wanted this anti-Semitism symposium to set the tone for the fall.

“It was a more quickly arranged event after a series of anti-Semitic events at the university,” Rabbi Litvin said. “A lot of students didn’t want to go home on such a negative note.”

He said a lot of those students didn’t feel heard after acts of hate against the Jewish community occurred.

“In two instances, there were university students who went walking by the Jewish Student Center who either threw bottles or caused other kinds of disturbances on the center’s front lawn,” Rabbi Litvin said.

The center’s sign was damaged again, and a man left anti-Semitic stickers on Lexington businesses. Members of the UK Jewish community also brought attention to an incident they said happened at a fraternity.

“A Jewish student was confronted, was made to withstand Nazi salutes and calls of ‘Heil Hitler,’ and made to feel, at that fraternity, where the people around him are supposed to be referred to as ‘brothers,’ was not his home,” Rabbi Litvin said.

He said some members of the community have felt some of these instances didn’t need to be discussed further or have attention drawn to them.

“At what point do we say that small incidents create a reality in which larger incidents can happen,?” Rabbi Litvin said.

Over the past year we’ve seen so students come together to protest inequality and the mistreatment of certain groups on campus and in the greater community. So many of those students have told WKYT they want to see more action from university leaders. Symposium participant Levi Wolff agreed.

“I think a response that I would’ve loved to see would’ve been swift and immediate acknowledgement of the event,” he said.

Rabbi Litvin said many leaders’ reactions to acts of hate have been uplifting.

“On Shabbat dinner outside Friday night, we had a bunch of fraternity and sorority students who were not Jewish who wanted to experience the Sabbath, who wanted to express their solidarity with the Jewish community,” he said.

Rabbi Litvin said, following this talk, he wants allies to understand his perspective more, and Jewish students to feel protected.

“I think as the year ends, and a new year begins for many of these students, it gives them both closure for what happened last year and a call to action,” he said.

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