A swastika at the doorpost of a Jewish Fraternity is a heinous, abhorrent crime of hate. A naive reaction could be some stupid kids making a juvenile prank. But our traumatic history was triggered in an already stressful period for our world and our nation; we relived Camp Auschwitz on the Capitol Steps, Pittsburgh and Poway, Charlottesville and the Shoah (Holocaust), all the way back to the core of Jewish Identity- oppression in Egypt.
All of this hatred in the hot pot of our social media could create another cycle of blame and scapegoating. To use this trauma to exacerbate our polarized discourse could not be easier and would be more damaging than the spray paint power blasted away hours after the incident. I cannot speak to the motives or influences of the perpetrator, but I can speak to my belief that the Cal Poly community must now make its motives and influences clear, as a space where this hatred will not stand. I am grateful that campus and community law enforcement and our University are taking this seriously and will pursue justice for our Jewish student community to the full extent of the law.
This crime also triggers many of our current fissures in society. When a Latino victim of the Walmart shooting rampage in El Paso said, “we are the new Jews”, he was only partly right, in claiming the Jewish experience as a source of comparison through which to speak that of Latino persecution. The Jewish experience can serve as a metaphor for other groups to speak of their own persecution, but for the Jews, the experience of suffering is anything but a metaphor.
Our community contains a multitude of various ethnicities and classes and a diverse culture, and we continue to be considered alien by some in our own homes and homeland. There are many other “others’’ who suffer under this othering banner of exclusion and violence; African
Americans, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ communities and other excluded victims of hate. The Swastikas were imprinted on our door, but they were directed at all minority groups, an attempt to intimidate, antagonize, and threaten our belonging to this larger community of the campus, the nation, the world.
We will remain proud of our heritage as Jews, but we must not make this violence an exclusive badge of horror. Our most important prayer commands us to listen to the unique expression of each divine soul and the divinity of all humanity. We must not only connect the vertical dots of Jewish hatred; we must connect the dots on our domestic horizon among our diversities and ethnicities, what makes our America so great from its foundation.
My teachers, the gentlemen of AEPi, choose to stand on the shoulders of Giants. By creating a GoFundMe page to protect their home in security, contribute to education about our past (Yad Vshem, the Holocaust Museum in Israel), and help support our SLO Jewish Community Festival of Learning, they have inspired people beyond our borders with positive action. The GoFundMe can be found here: https://gofund.me/c75a26bd. The Festival will be dedicated to education for all of SLO county, within the University and for our community to share not only about antisemitism and the Shoah, but about racism, intolerance and hate, by nurturing dialogue, understanding and love of humanity. Their menschie-ness, (which means the best of humans) is a lesson for all of us. Our students are our greatest teachers. We have a lot of school to attend.
Rabbi Micah
Hyman Executive Director SLO Hillel