Areas around campus were defaced with antisemitic graffiti on the first day of classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Wednesday. The graffiti contained words of hate and attacks on the entire Jewish community through accusations and blood libels, according to a UW Chabad statement.
In a news release, the university said multiple antisemitic sidewalk chalkings appeared around campus labeling Jewish student groups as “racist,” “genocidal” and “having blood on their hands.”
“It was very upsetting and disheartening,” Hillel board of directors member Sydney Tepner said. “It was a very intense thing to see.”
“We have no reason to believe that this was a large group of people that were responsible for these incidents, these intimidation threats,” President of Badgers Alliance for Israel (BAFI) Yuval Lerman said. “We believe it was probably a small group of people that were acting alone"
The university acknowledged that these antisemitic messages “represent free speech which is a core value at UW.”
According to a UW Hillel statement, the graffiti targeted student organizations connected to Israel which, in their view, is an attack on the identity of Jewish students. This incident continues a trend of increased antisemitism at UW-Madison.
UW-Madison is home to over 4,200 Jewish students which is about 13% of the total student population, according to Hillel.org.
“My immediate reaction is this graffiti was antisemitic because it called out Jewish organizations that had a variety of involvements with Israel, not involved and no connection at all,” Lerman said.
UW Hillel and UW Chabad both expressed hateful graffiti words do not represent UW or the campus community.
Despite increased antisemitism at UW-Madison and this incident on the first day of school, UW Chabad said “rest assured that our campus Jewish community is safe and we have no reason to fear.”
“I think that Jewish students feel safe, there isn’t a direct threat to our lives,” said Tepner. “I think that at times it can feel like we don’t belong on campus.”
Hillel board of directors member Amanda Peterson expressed that she felt the university response could have been better with a call to action and a goal to stop these incidents from happening again.
UW Chabad’s statement concluded with a call to action, asking the community to “speak out and ensure this campus remains a place where all feel welcome and feel loved.”
“Come talk to me, come talk to us,” said Lerman. “Your opinions are valid and we understand what an effect and how traumatizing it can be for some people when they’re just starting off at a new institution.”