DENVER — Jewish students at the University of Denver gathered Friday evening to show solidarity and strength following multiple acts of antisemitism on campus this week.
Two students had their mezuzahs torn down and defiled, and a third had pork products glued to their dorm room door, according to the University of Denver Hillel student group. The university has confirmed it is investigating, and will include the incidents as hate crimes in its annual report.
“I was shocked, to say the least,” said student Jeremy Weissman, a member of DU Hillel. “These events actually happened to a few of my good friends here, and it was a bit frightening.”
DU Hillel estimates there are currently around 500 Jewish students on campus, with a little more than 50 regularly particularly in weekly Shabbat and gatherings. The organization’s main priority this week has been to provide them with a safe space.
“It’s been a really hard week, I think, to watch students really struggle with deciding how to present Jewishly in this world,” said DU Hillel director Lily Gross. “They’re scared. They’re not quite sure if this is a safe place for them.”
Statistics show that antisemitism is on the rise in Colorado and across the country. A report last year from the Anti-Defamation League found that antisemitic incidents in the state jumped 53 percent from 2020 to 2021. The most recent annual FBI report on hate crimes showed a record number of reported hate crimes in Colorado in 2021.
A recent survey by the American Jewish Committee showed antisemitism worries are rising for many Jewish Americans.
The DU Jewish community, and some of their non-Jewish classmates and neighbors, decided to respond with solidarity and resilience with an event it called Jewnity Shabbat Hop Friday evening. Many gathered at the university’s Community Commons building to sing songs of unity and light candles to end a “dark week,” before walking to the DU Hillel center for Shabbat dinner.
“Antisemitism is real. Hate and bigotry are real,” Gross said. “This is frightening and sad, and all we can do is really combat it with more love.”
“I think it’s more important than ever to do something like this, and sort of show that I’m not afraid and that I’m proud to be Jewish,” Weissman added.
Going forward, DU Hillel is working to train university Resident Advisors in “how to best handle antisemitism,” Gross said, and hopes that the University of Denver will follow suit and offer similar trainings across campus.