The anti-Semitic incidient last Saturday night occurred during a very sensitive time in the Jewish year. This past Wednesday, Jewish people on campus and all over the world observed Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. This is a time allocated for introspection, self-improvement and forgiveness. But this time of vulnerability and openness was perverted by a symbol of hate. As a Jew at Yale, this incident has left me confused, angry and searching for answers.
On Monday morning, Yale Law School formally acknowledged the incident in a brief email from Law School Dean Heather Gerken, which condemned the act as a hate crime and decried it as “utterly antithetical to our values.” Shortly following this, the law school’s Office of Student Affairs sent out an email offering support and providing resources to members of the law school community troubled by this incident. The incident, they assured the community, was being handled.
But I am still wondering why I heard about this incident for the first time not from University President Peter Salovey or Dean Marvin Chun but rather in an email from the Jewish Chaplain at Yale Rabbi Jason Rubenstein on Monday afternoon — one that was only sent out to the members of the Yale Hillel panlist. This is not something that should only go out to the Jewish community — it should be something that every Yale student should be forced to grapple with.
Yale Law School is not an institution separate from the rest of Yale. The main building is a mere minute’s walk away from Sterling Library and Cross Campus, the heart of Yale undergraduate life. The graffiti was painted on the High Street entrance of the Yale Law School — near a path that both students of the law school and the college use frequently. Indeed, on Mondays and Wednesdays, 492 undergraduate students attend class in the law school auditorium. They enter the building through none other than the High Street entrance. Nevertheless, there has been no mention from the administration to Yale College students about the incident. To me, as a Jewish student on campus, it feels like the incident, just like the graffiti itself, has simply been painted over.
Last year around this time, the campus faced a similar sort of blatant hate when masked individuals posted racially provocative flyers on Cross Campus bulletin boards, advertising a “white students’ union of Yale.” The flyers included several overtly racist statements, including a quote from the infamous slavery advocate John C. Calhoun, reading, “In looking back, I see nothing to regret, and little to correct.”
It is clear that these incidents of racism and anti-Semitism are not isolated. Across the country, white supremacism is on the rise. The Anti-Defamation League reported a 258 percent increase in incidents of white supremacism on American college campuses in the fall of the 2017 semester, and an 89 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents on campuses in the 2017 academic year. At Yale, over the past two years we have had several events that illustrate this trend, including the one this past week. And yet, just last October, Yale elected not to institute a Title VI office, which would help address race- and ethnicity-based discrimination allegations, and combat the institutional prejudice clearly on the rise on campus.
In his email in response to last year’s flyer incident, Salovey strongly states that “hate is not welcome on our campus.” And yet, hate has once again reared its ugly head, less than a block away from the billboards on which these racist flyers were posted. I cannot help but think that perhaps hate is not so unwelcome after all.
JAKE KALODNER is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .