Two separate incidents of vandalism to University Jewish centers in Indiana were reported this past week.
Saturday, a rock was found thrown through a back kitchen window of the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center at 730 E. Third St., while on Tuesday, members of the Chabad House Jewish Student Center at 518 E. Seventh St. found a limestone rock thrown through a back window of the center.
The incidents mirror previous vandalism in October 2007, when a beer bottle was thrown through one of the windows of the Chabad House. A few weeks later, the word “Jewish” was stripped from the building.
Because the Chabad House is located just off campus, the Bloomington Police Department is investigating the first incident, while the IU Police Department responded to Saturday’s.
IU Chief of Police Keith Cash said detectives from both departments will meet and discuss any similarities seen in the incidents but that it is “too soon to tell” whether they are related. No suspects or arrests have been made for either incident.
Although the vandalism was reported by the Hillel Center Saturday, Cash said it could have taken place any time since Tuesday.
President of Chabad House Alex Groysman said when he heard about the incident Tuesday, he immediately drove to the building on Seventh Street. Shocked, Groysman said he could not believe what he saw.
“Glass was shattered throughout the main prayer room causing damage in the building,” Groysman said. “We believe it was an act of anti-Semitism because the window shattered was less than a yard away from a sign that says Jewish Student Center.
“After everything the center does to build understanding and friendly relations in the community, there are people out there that just want to destroy. By throwing that stone, that person was sending a message that they do not want us here, and that is something that is not OK.”
The Bloomington Police Department sent patrols to the scene after a source called to report the incident. Through on-site investigation, they identified the limestone rock and confirmed the damages it caused inside the building, BPD Sgt. Scott Myers said.
Myers said the attack occurred between 1 and 5:30 p.m. while no one was in the center.
“We received no threats before or after the event, so there is no way of knowing who was specifically responsible for it,” Groysman said. “The only thing we can do is to
bring light to this event and expose it for what it is.”
Groysman said the Chabad House plans to build a 12-foot menorah to celebrate Hanukkah, and the center has been raising funds from the community for the menorah for about a month, but the recent incidents will push them to complete it in time.
Rabbi Yehoshua Chincholker, co-director of the center, said since the center is made of solid limestone itself, and he wants to incorporate the limestone rock used in the attack as part of the foundation to the menorah.
“This will emphasize that deep mutual respect for each other,” Chincholker said. “Freedom of body and strength of spirit — which are the rock and foundation of our land, our homes and our communities — are cherished principles that serve as the bedrock of our society.”
Contact the center at [email protected] or 812-332-4511 to make a donation.