By Stacey Dresner
AMHERST — On Tuesday morning, April 21, as Jews around the world commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Hillel building at University of Massachusetts Amherst was vandalized.
The word “Palestine” was written on the front of the building in Arabic in red spray paint sometime between the time Yom Hashoah began on Monday night and early Tuesday morning.
According to a message on UMass Hillel’s webpage, the organization has been in communication with the Amherst Police Department, UMass and organizational partners.
“This cowardly act of hatred towards the Jewish community amidst a time of global crisis and on Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Day, is reprehensible. Our UMass Jewish community is resilient and strong, and in the face of this hate we will only deepen our commitment to empowering students to build vibrant community based on values of love, respect, justice and peace,” the Hillel statement read.
In response to the vandalism, UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy sent a message out to the campus community.
“The timing of this cowardly act, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, is deeply repugnant,” Subbaswamy stated. “In this period of global crisis, it is more important than ever that we reject hatred and intolerance. Our Jewish students, faculty and staff add to the rich diversity that makes UMass such a special place, and Hillel is a source of support and strength for so many of our students. The hateful actions of any individual cannot change that, and will, in fact, strengthen our resolve to stand in solidarity with the members of our Jewish community.”
He added that both the Amherst Police Department (APD), which has jurisdiction over the incident, and the UMass Police Department are investigating.
“The SGA will not stand for intolerance, hate crimes, or vandalism of any kind,” said Rachel Ellis, president of the Student Government Association (SGA) on the SGA Facebook page. “As a Jewish woman, I am disgusted by this act. My thoughts go out to the Jewish community during this time and going forward the UMass community must continue to empower each other to put forth acts of kindness, respect and love.”
She added that, while support for the Palestinian people “is legitimate and has the right to be voiced through our First Amendment, this act of vandalism was clearly an act of hatred toward the Jewish community during this time of global crisis.”
Stewart Bromberg, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Western Mass., was informed about this “New act of anti-Semtisim targeting our community” by Chancellor Subbaswamy on Tuesday.
“This cowardly and hateful act took place as Jewish people everywhere are commemorating Yom HaShoah; Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a sad reminder that when we say “Never Again” we are recommitting ourselves to a very real and very present struggle,” Bromberg said in a message sent out to the community. “We stand resolved to continue to combat anti-Semitism. The safety of the students at UMass, and of our community in general is at the forefront of our minds. We continue to work with law enforcement, local and national organizations, local representatives, and community leaders to secure our community and institutions, to respond to anti-Semitic acts, and to work toward a society free from hate.
“At a time like this, community solidarity is needed most. Circumstances have forced us to remain physically isolated, but in thought and spirit we stand together.”