The Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel Statement in Response to Recent Antisemitic Incidents Impacting the MSU Community

We regret to inform you of three antisemitic incidents that happened this past weekend on and around our campus. These incidents make clear that antisemitism is a real problem that we need to address to realize our vision of MSU as an inclusive community for all its members. At the same time, we are heartened by the way students involved in the incidents stood up against the perpetrators and reported the incidents to the university. 

In one incident, an individual joined a biology class group chat using a Nazi swastika as a profile picture claiming that they study biology to prove that “Jews are scum.” The other students in the chat denounced those statements and removed the perpetrator from the chat. One student reported the incident to the class professor and to a number of campus units, including the Serling Institute. MSU is currently investigating whether the perpetrator is a member of the MSU community. Regardless of whether such perpetrators are affiliated with MSU or not, their actions harm the campus community. 

An individual using the same screenname also made antisemitic comments in the group chat of a local apartment complex, responding to another resident’s message with, “Shut the hell up Jew boy.” When asked to leave the chat by other participants, the perpetrator answered, “This is why you don’t trust Jews.” We applaud the students in this group chat for censuring these statements and commend the university for investigating these incidents. 

Also, this weekend, for the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, a campus student organization painted the Rock with an American flag, with the caption “Never Forget,” and the number of victims lost in the 9/11 attacks. At some point over the weekend, the word “Israel” was spray painted over the American flag, and the word “never” was painted over. The graffiti evokes the antisemitic conspiracy theory that Israel was responsible for the 9/11 attack. This is a modern iteration of the centuries-old trope that Jews control world events. Students have since re-painted the Rock. 

These events on campus are not isolated. In the last several years, students at MSU have shared more than 75 incidents of antisemitism ranging from “jokes,” to verbal attacks, to destruction of property. In the United States there has been a significant rise in antisemitism over the past four years, from neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville in 2017, to the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh in 2018, to violent attacks on the streets of New York City, Los Angeles, and Boston in 2021.  

The Serling Institute is an important resource on campus for education about antisemitism. We

are currently crafting a guide to understanding antisemitism, we always offer a variety of courses that address antisemitism, and we encourage the MSU community to join our virtual symposium on antisemitism on October 8. Please click here to register. We urge the MSU community to join us in condemning antisemitism, in investigating reported incidents in a timely and transparent fashion, and in supporting further education on antisemitism on campus. 

These are some important resources on campus for education on antisemitism and for support for students who experience antisemitism.

www.jsp.msu.edu and or Director, Yael Aronoff aronoffy@msu.edu

www.msuhillel.org and or Hillel Director Cindy Hughey director@msuhillel.org

CAPS: https://caps.msu.edu/index.html

Also, to report incidents see https://civilrights.msu.edu/file-a-report/index.html and OIE: oie@msu.edu

Interdisciplinary study of the history, cultures, language(s), identities, and religion of the Jewish people

UPCOMING EVENTS

The Jonathan Netanyahu Symposium on Antisemitism Panel 2: “Antisemitism and the Campus Climate”