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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A message of hate

Published: March 18, 2011
Section: Opinions

“Someone drew a swastika on our stairway.” I paused, rereading my computer screen; surely I had misread my friend’s morning greeting. But, no matter how long I stared at the small black words, they told the same stunning story: “Someone drew a swastika on our stairway.”

Early Tuesday morning, a good friend of mine left her dorm room at a small college in Vermont, just as she does every weekday morning. She didn’t make it far on the short trek to the bathroom before she saw it, big and black, glaring at her from the wall. There was no mistaking what it was; it was identical to the images plastered in Holocaust books and films, each line perfectly formed to broadcast an understood message of anti-Semitism.

Fighting back tears and incredible rage, she backtracked to her room to handle the matter in a mature and rational manner. By 11 a.m. the administration had been contacted and her fellow residents notified. Although she is the only Jew in her residence, and therefore the most personally affected, her gentile roommates found the night’s hateful graffiti offensive as well. Quickly, rumors and theories spread, speculating who of the small quantity of students with access to the small Victorian-style house—which serves as a dormitory—would have initiated such an act. Who—of the people she interacts with on a daily basis—had been harboring such hate for her people this entire year.

Until Residential Life steps in and covers the mark, all the residents will have to walk past it in order to leave their individual rooms. How can one be expected to go on with life normally while being faced with such a loaded symbol? No one, Jew or otherwise, should be forced to see this constant reminder of the hate that still exists in our world, this reminder that there are still people among us who believe in Hitler’s policies.

While the marking of a wall is not physically harming anyone, there is no way to know how far someone filled with this level of hate is willing to go. The swastika is a symbol with a powerful meaning and extreme connotations.

Someone didn’t just haphazardly happen to doodle it on the wall, no matter how drunk they may have been. A marking this strong is made with one purpose and one purpose alone: to instill fear. No one should need to be afraid to walk freely in their own home.

“You’re lucky you go to a place where there are actually other Jews,” my friend told me amid her angry online ranting. “I’m starting to regret not doing so.”

While my friend attracts attention for wearing something as simple as a Magen David, Brandeis students are greeted by a Chabad table in the dining hall asking them about their plans for Purim. While my friend will find it difficult to find Passover Matzah, Brandeis gives its students a week off.

And while my friend needs to travel to an entirely different university to say a communal Kiddush, Brandeis provides an entire Kosher cafeteria. Here at Brandeis, a swastika appearing on any public building, while not impossible, seems unlikely. Judaism is prevalent. Anti-Semitism is low.

But at Brandeis we live in a bubble. What my friend is dealing with is very real. It is hard to fathom that such hate still survives in the world. But it does. What my friend is experiencing is not an isolated instance, but a blaring wake-up call.