Campus News

After vandalism near a Madison synagogue, campus reacts

Image By: Morgan Winston and Morgan Winston

After swastikas were found spray-painted on a historical marker near a synagogue at James Madison Park early Wednesday morning, UW-Madison leaders and student organizations were quick to denounce the vandalism.

University of Wisconsin Hillel, an organization that provides programs and activities for Jewish students on campus, spoke out against the act. Greg Steinberger, the group’s executive director, called the vandalism cowardly.

“This act of bigotry is especially painful as we prepare to celebrate Rosh Hashanna,” Steinberger said in an email. “We are saddened to learn about this cowardliness incident and during these days where we as a community reflect on who we are, where we have been and where we are headed as all in our community to make a commitment to make the world a better place and to fight hatred, racism and xenophobia.”

The graffiti — sprayed across a monument honoring Americans who fought fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War — included the statements “TRUMP RULES” and “ANTIFA SUCKS,” in addition to the swastikas. The timing of the incident particularly offended some Jewish students, who noted that the Jewish New Year begins Wednesday evening.

Some students felt personally attacked by the incident. Phoebe Kiekhofer, a student liaison for Jewish Experience of Madison, said she heard about the vandalism from one of her rabbis early this morning. She said the display’s proximity to the Gates of Heaven Synagogue was tragic and that the timing was “disturbing.”

“I think we are all in shock,” Kiekhofer said. “I am of the belief that it was probably timed this way because whoever did this knew it was Rosh Hashana, which is just sick.”

The Associated Students of Madison passed a resolution against anti-Semitism earlier this month, and in a press release Wednesday called the act “deeply disturbing” and a reminder of “how far our nation has yet to go until we are a place for all people.”

“The Associated Students of Madison stands in strong opposition to such discrimination, and asks that students, staff, faculty, and other campus units alike stand up against bigotry,” they said in a statement. “We must be united, and we must hold true the values of equity and inclusion for all.”

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