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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Incident at UW-Hillel sparks conflict rather than celebration

Messages regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with other anti-Israeli political sentiments, were marked in chalk outside of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Hillel center on Sunday, the first night of Hanukkah. 

In an email sent by UW Hillel to its members, they stated that “No religious celebration should be used as an opportunity to promote divisiveness, and to attempt to hold our diverse Jewish community responsible for the actions of the Isreali government is a modern manifestation of antisemitism.” 

The organization is a center for Jewish student life and houses nearly 5,000 students. Hillel also has the goal of engaging students, developing leaders and allowing students and individuals to live their lives while expressing their Jewish values and identities. The center identifies itself as a safe space for not only the Jewish community, but for all people of different cultures within Madison.

The email from UW-Hillel also noted that the organization looks forward to continuing its support for students and their Jewish community despite the antisemitic remarks. 

Conflict between Israeli and Palestinian individuals dates back to the 19th century, and both groups have since been engaged in conflicts over land and human rights. 

In Oct. 2020, a court in Israel ruled that Palestinian residents living in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in Jerusalem, would be evicted to make room for Jewish families. The evictions were the beginning of weeks of armed conflict where over 100 Palestinians were wounded and killed by air strikes and other attacks. More than 72,000 Palestinians had been displaced from the conflict.

This is not the first reported incident of anti-Israeli vandalism on Hillel’s property – in June 2020, they found the phrase “Free Palestine” spray-painted on the outside of the building.  

UW-Hillel Chief Executive Officer and President Greg Steinberger told The Daily Cardinal that despite the incident, the community still found a way to come together.

“Yesterday, Nov. 30, on Giving Tuesday, we raised over $28,000 from over 135 donors to support programming for Jewish students here at UW, funding that will ensure we can maintain and expand our events both inside the Barbara Hochberg Center for Jewish Student Life and across campus," he stated. 

With such generous acts of donations to the community, Steinberger and the entire UW-Hillel center look at the positives that are going on in the community rather than giving attention to the negatives. 

“We are committed to being an open and welcoming space for people of all religious, ethnic, and cultural identities on this campus, and hope others will also work to ensure this campus remains a safe and inclusive space for all Jewish students,” Steinberger concluded. 

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Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated that the graffiti appeared on Tuesday. The chalk messages were written on Sunday night, the first night of Hanukkah. 

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