Michigan State University hit with multiple anti-Semitic incidents over one weekend

MSU's Jewish studies department is calling for action after a rash of anti-Semitic incidents hits the campus on the same weekend.

Dan Verbin ,

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The Jewish studies department at Michigan State University (MSU) has denounced three anti-Semitic incidents that took place on campus over a single weekend earlier in the month, urging action to tackle what the director of the institute described as an issue that has been ongoing for years.

According to a statement released by the Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel, the incidents occurred on the weekend of September 10.

“These incidents make clear that anti-Semitism is a real problem that we need to address to realize our vision of MSU as an inclusive community for all its members,” the Serling Institute wrote. “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.”

The first incident involved someone joining a biology class group chat using a swastika as their profile picture and telling the students that they study biology to “prove that ‘Jews are scum.’” The other students condemned the comment and quickly removed the perpetrator from the chat, and the incident was reported.

MSU is current investigating whether the perpetrator is an MSU student, according to the Serling Institute.

The second incident occurred in the group chat of a student apartment complex in which an individual with the same name as the first incident made anti-Semitic comments, replying to a resident's message by saying “Shut the hell up Jew boy.”

When the perpetrator was told to leave the chat, they responded with “This is why you don’t trust Jews.”

The third incident involved the defacement of a campus memorial for the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that included an American flag with the caption “Never Forget” and the number of victims who were killed.

At some point over that weekend, someone spray painted “Israel” over the American flag and the word “Never” was painted over so that the memorial read “Forget Israel.”

“The graffiti evokes the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Israel was responsible for the 9/11 attack,” said the Sterling Institute. “This is a modern iteration of the centuries-old trope that Jews control world events.”

They added that the graffiti has since been painted over by students.

The Sterling Institute stressed that the events are not isolated incidents.

“In the last several years, students at MSU have shared more than 75 incidents of anti-Semitism ranging from ‘jokes’ to verbal attacks to destruction of property,” they said.

Serling Institute Director Yael Aronoff told The State News that they were already very concerned about anti-Semitism on campus before the three incidents took place. The issue was so serious that five years ago it prompted them to hold an annual forum for students to share their experiences with campus anti-Semitism.

“Each year on average we have about 25 students who share their experiences,” Aronoff said, noting that most students don’t report the incidents.

The Serling Institute announced that it will hold a symposium on anti-Semitism in October, and called for action to address the three incidents and the broader issue of anti-Semitism on campus.

“We urge the MSU community to join us in condemning anti-Semitism, in investigating reported incidents in a timely and transparent manner, and in supporting further education on anti-Semitism on campus,” they said.