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UW Hillel responds to antisemitic incident at Hanukkah celebration

Two individuals yelled antisemitic remarks at a small Dec. 8 Hanukkah gathering, according to UW Hillel

Two people disturbed Hanukkah celebrations at UW Hillel on Dec. 8, shouting political slogans and obscenities, according to a UW Hillel Instagram statement

UW Hillel serves as a home for the 4,000 Jewish students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, providing a space for religious events yearlong including during Hanukkah, according to the Hillel website.

Marni Schneider, a front desk employee at Hillel, was working when the individuals came in and shouted antisemitic remarks related to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. 

Schneider recalled turning to the door, expecting her friends to enter. When she realized what the individuals were saying, she said she was “startled.”

UW Hillel President Greg Steinberger was nearby and quickly removed the two individuals, and the Hanukkah celebration continued, according to Schneider.

“I’ve been more on edge working at Hillel with [the Israel-Hamas war] happening. Nothing like [Dec. 8’s incident] had happened before when I was working,” Schneider said. “I’m happy it was just yelling.” 

Hillel said it believes the individuals are students but had not confirmed their identities as of Dec. 13. In its statement, Hillel reaffirmed that targeting Jewish students based on their identity is “unacceptable” and that the organization contacted authorities about the incident.

Hillel also directed students to bias reporting resources. The Dean of Students Office provides a form for students to report hate or bias to university officials.

State Rep. Francesca Hong responded to the incident on Twitter.

“Targeting Jewish students is abhorrent and purely antisemitic. There are no exceptions,” Hong said. “Disrespectful disturbances will not be tolerated especially during a time when there are heightened concerns about security and safety for many vulnerable communities, particularly those of the Jewish faith.”

Antisemitic attacks and behavior have increased nationally since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel, according to data from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, including during a neo-Nazi rally on Nov. 18 in Madison. 

Many state and local leaders, including UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin, Gov. Tony Evers, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway, condemned the antisemitic incident.

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To Schneider, Hillel has been a positive experience and a necessary source of community with the recent rise in antisemitism.

“The sense of community was something I didn’t know I wanted until I had it,” Schneider said.

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Bryna Goeking

Bryna Goeking is an arts editor for The Daily Cardinal. She also reports on campus news. Follow her on twitter @BrynaGoeking.


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