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Community responds to hate crime

Religious leaders unite to support victim of anti-Semitism

By Rick Newkirk

Published Thursday, April 29, 2004
Updated 01:00AM Thursday, April 29, 2004

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center Wednesday to demonstrate against hate crimes after a Jewish student's Jeep was defaced with red swastikas and the word "Jew" Monday night.

Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan, Dean of Students Richard McKaig and leaders from five religious institutions all spoke to the concerned crowd.

"Bloomington is a community that comes together in times of need," Kruzan said. "Sadly this incident proves it's not a perfect community."

The victim, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was touched by the enormous support offered at the demonstration.

"It's inspiring to see that so many people care," he said. "It's nice to see that so many people in high positions are trying to understand what it's like to be a victim of a hate crime."

Hillel Director Rabbi Sue Shifron said Monday's vandalism of the Jeep was an act of fear and hatred.

"I hope he or she comes forward to talk to somebody and get help," Shifron said. "It's such an act of cowardice and hate, and that kind of hate destroys not only everyone else but will eventually destroy him or her as well."

McKaig presented a statement prepared by IU-Bloomington Interim Chancellor Ken Gros Louis, who is out of town, calling on the Bloomington community's support.

"Each of us must first stand alone against bigotry and anger in our individual lives before we can collectively stand against them in our communal lives," McKaig read. "One by one, we must rid ourselves of the small misunderstandings and senseless mistrust that too often seed hate, encourage its presence or allow it space to grow."

McKaig said the penalty for the vandalism will be steep. Though he could not speculate on the exact University reaction at stake, he said because the vandalism is a hate crime there are potentially harsher criminal penalties.

"We want anyone who knows anything to help us find the people responsible," McKaig said. "If it is somebody's idea of a bad joke I would like to get that matter resolved."

Shifron said this singular incident of vandalism represents a more deeply seeded sentiment of hatred and intolerance.

"The targeted hate crime was not an attack on only one student, it was an attack on every one of us," Shifron said. "It was a challenge to us to demonstrate where we stand and what we believe. It was a call to action."

Leaders from the Christian, Muslim and Bahá'i traditions all showed their support and joined Shifron at the podium.

One leader, Father Dan Atkins of St. Paul's Catholic Center, offered to pay the student's costs for repainting his car on behalf of his congregation.

Junior Elan Neiger said the incident was a "black eye" for Bloomington.

"It's a disappointment for the whole city," Neiger said. "Bloomington is supposed to be such a welcoming liberal town, and then something like this happens."

Other audience members shared similar sentiments. Junior Maya Eshel said the crime has made her more frightened.

"I have a Hebrew bumper sticker that I haven't been able to put on my car and I hate that," Eshel said. "I think somebody might slash my tires if I did."

But the victim said he is not afraid.

"These people are cowards," he said. "They think this is funny, they think this is a prank. This isn't a joke. I am not afraid of these scoundrels."

Another student, senior Daniel Farahan, said he would like to speak to the vandal in person.

"I'd like it if he'd come over to my house and we can talk this out like men," Farahan said. "I'd really like to talk to him."

McKaig said he was disgusted with the sheer cruelty of the act.

"This was clearly a very blatant targeted act against an individual student," McKaig said. "It causes us concern for the type of individual who would do that."

Coordinator of the Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Support Services Doug Bauder said he would like to reach out to the perpetrator of the crime.

"If he did this out of ignorance, he ought to read 'The Diary of Anne Frank,'" Bauder said. "If he did it as a joke, he should watch 'Schindler's List.' If he did it out of anger or hatred, he needs to talk with someone about that, because it will ultimately lead to his self-destruction."

Each speaker addressed his or her commitment to unity in trying times. Kruzan said he is confident the community will respond in an appropriate manner.

"It is important to be aware that there is hatred in our community," Kruzan said. "Small minds will be overcome by large hearts."

-- Contact staff writer Rick Newkirk at

©Copyright 2004, Indiana Daily Student. All rights reserved.

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