So you may have seen my guest column in the Daily today (which was doctored to make me slightly less condemnatory of last year’s chalking than I really am, but what can you do?) The original is below. The Daily’s version, if you’re curious, is here. The Daily’s video coverage of the forum is here.

After the vandalism of the Chabad House, there’s been a lot of talk on campus about whether or not the destruction should be classified as a hate crime.  Representatives of the Chabad House have been very careful to acknowledge this uncertainty in their Daily quotes. Many of my Jewish friends told me they are reluctant to throw around strong language unnecessarily and are quick to say that the vandalism could’ve been just a Halloween prank. Other campus posts have bemoaned the comparison of the vandalism to SHIFT’s chalking last year, sparking the discussion of whether or not the chalking was a hate crime or merely a provocative statement.

The truth is none of us can say what the Chabad vandal’s intentions were. And while his/her intentions definitely matter when it comes to classifying the incident as a hate crime, the uncertainty doesn’t permit us to disregard the issue.  The vandalism came on the heels of a bomb attempt that, at the time of the vandalism, was thought to be targeting Chicago Jews. Though I am not Jewish, I understand why the Chicago Jewish community felt threatened, and a vandalized menorah didn’t help matters.

While the vandal’s intentions are debatable, the fact that our campus’ Jewish community is questioning whether or not they were the victims of a hate crime is not. They shouldn’t be in a position to have to do that.  They should feel welcome, loved, and included at Northwestern, in Evanston, and in this country.

I think the Northwestern community could be without crimes or vandalism and thus avoid needing to classify hate crimes.  We must develop greater understandings of the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of the sub-communities that make up our larger campus community to eliminate the catalysts for these discussions and cut “hate” off at its knees.

If people had been more aware of the sensitivities around blackface, we might not have had the blackface incident this time last year. In the same way that the need to be sensitive to racial diversity became a conversation on campus last Halloween, the need to be sensitive to religious diversity should become a conversation on campus this Halloween. Then maybe next Halloween, instead of having a broken menorah we could have formed some new relationships across Northwestern’s various religious communities.

I am not Jewish. I’m not even religious. Yet I see a dire need for greater religious understanding on our campus. It’s not just bashed menorahs that make me think a change is needed, but also the insensitive language I hear every day and the awareness of the lines we draw between ourselves.

Interfaith Hall and the Chaplain’s Office are hosting the Interfaith Potluck (which is actually a catered dinner, who knew?) on November 15th in 122 Parkes Hall to discuss “Giving in Our Faith.” Identifying the commonalities between many faiths is a great place to start in building these relationships and discussing religious sensitivity. Dinner starts at 6 p.m. I hope to see you there.



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