An open letter to Dean Groves

A student


I really should be working on my thesis at the moment, but I am absolutely furious as a result of two cowards who just perpetrated what is the second unmistakably anti-Semitic affront against me in 24 hours. Earlier tonight, two young men stole the Israeli flag that I had displayed on the door of my own Room 7 West Lawn. From my desk, I heard something happening immediately outside my room and opened my door to find the two individuals fleeing, the door left missing a cherished and significant piece of personal property. This follows less than 24 hours after another incident in which someone wrote prominently on my dry-erase board "F--- Jews." And one month since the Zeta Psi episode.

The [alleged] Zeta Psi hazing event garnered publicity as a result of the young man being hospitalized, which of course is awful. It went unrecognized, however, that the [alleged] hazing involved feeding pledges dog food in addition to traditional Jewish foods, Matzo balls and Gefilte fish. This juxtaposition is no coincidence, and it is another unacceptable statement of anti-Semitism by a long-standing institution at our university. When I first heard about this, I was conflicted as to whether I should heed the request of some of my peers and notify the administration. Given this recent rise in blatant discrimination against Jews, I am now compelled to.

Despite the insistence of many, anti-Semitism is not a relic of the past. Of this I am sure. Yet, to find it expressed so unabashedly at the University founded by Thomas Jefferson, author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, is simply appalling. In my four years here, I have never felt as threatened as I do now. I am ashamed to admit that the thought crossed my mind of taking down the mezuzah that adorns my doorpost. I will not. I will not stop wearing my yarmulke or my tzitzit. I will not stop walking to services on the Sabbath. In the face of injury and offense, the Jewish response is to bring light into the world, to react with positivity.

Furthermore, as a resident of the Lawn, living in a room endowed by one of the University's premier student organizations, I am a proud representative of the communities and institutions of which I am a part. I have the opportunity and privilege to serve as a voice for my community. No longer will I hesitate for even a moment to express the concerns of my fellow Jews. As such, I will not allow this trend of anti-Semitism to go ignored. This is not something that the University, which I love so dearly, can leave unaddressed. We must respond, and respond constructively.

On April 13, at 5:30 p.m, I will be the closing speaker at the Interfaith Vigil of Blessing to celebrate the inauguration of our new president, Teresa A. Sullivan. I will be reciting for President Sullivan and our university a blessing that God lift His countenance and grant peace, [from] the oldest Biblical text that has been found, dating back over 2600 years. I sincerely wish that my invocation - that this entire vigil - not be in vain. I hope and expect that the student body, faculty and administration will use this event as an opportunity to express solidarity with all faiths, especially in response to this recent series of expressions to the contrary. I implore you and the rest of the University community to join me in promoting light over darkness, respect over bigotry, love over hate.

Dean Groves, this Vigil is a wonderful first step that I hope we all take advantage of - and I really do not mean to overly politicize the event, if that is how my idea is coming across - but I turn to you as a representative of our university: What else can be done to ensure that such disrespect is not taken lightly, that it receives due consideration?

Thank you very much,\nKeenan Davis

Keenan Davis is a fourth-year College student.

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