The Rohr Chabad house at the University of Wisconsin-Madison hosted a town hall discussion on antisemitism on Sunday night. Approximately 30 members of the UW-Madison Jewish community gathered to discuss antisemitism on a local and national level.
According to organizers, the event was prompted by a Hitler costume a member of the Madison community wore near campus last Saturday.
“The event tonight was organized after the Hitler event, but it was really more of a build-up of a variety of events,” said Meira Meadows, a UW-Madison student and fellow with Zionist education organization StandWithUs. “This event was about bringing Jewish students together and talking about our shared experience of antisemitism.”
Rabbi Mendel Matusof, director of UW Chabad, started the event with a video titled “The Mutilation of Antisemitism,” which traced the modern history of antisemitism and described certain antisemitic descriptions and attitudes towards Israel. After the video, Matusof opened up the conversation to students to discuss their experiences as Jews on campus.
Meadows discussed an incident where a professor indicated on the syllabus that holidays would not be considered excused absences. This targeted Jewish students who celebrate the Jewish high holidays in the fall, according to Meadows.
Harris Jacobs, a member of the Israel on Campus Coalition, described four bias incidents they had reported to the university since the beginning of classes. Events included anti-Zionist chalkings on the first day of school, the Hitler costume incident in late October and spray paint at Memorial Union that equated Matt Walsh, a conservative commentator who spoke on campus, to a Nazi.
Throughout the evening, students described feeling unheard when trying to address antisemitism on campus.
“UW-Madison has one of the highest populations of Jewish students across all public universities, so it is insane that we feel so ignored,” Meadows said. “Every single day I walk on campus and look at my feet and think, ‘What new chalking is on the ground?’”
The town hall’s conversation then shifted to discuss the general climate of antisemitism in the United States. Topics discussed included Kyrie Irving’s suspension from the Brooklyn Nets because of antisemitic comments, rapper Kanye West’s antisemitic and racist comments and the FBI receiving multiple threats to synagogues in New Jersey.
Toward the end of the town hall, leaders at Chabad discussed education initiatives they are attempting to institute for the greater UW-Madison community.
They also announced that Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion LaVar Charleston and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Lori Reesor plan to attend Shabbat dinner at Chabad in December to learn more about the university’s Jewish community and traditions.
After the town hall, only Meadows was available for an interview.
Noe Goldhaber is the college news editor and former copy chief for the Daily Cardinal. She is a statistics major and has reported on a wide range of campus issues. Follow her on Twitter at @noegoldhaber.