As students and visitors walk through the doors of the Indiana Memorial Union, they pass red mezuzahs hanging in some of the door frames that include the message "I stand with my Jewish friends." They're among hundreds placed in entrances throughout the IU Bloomington campus as a symbol of solidarity with the Jewish community.
A mezuzah is typically found on the doors and gates of a Jewish person's home and contain Hebrew verses of the Torah. In response to recent antisemitism, IU Hillel launched a project to distribute free authentic mezuzah cases, but with a different message -- "I stand with my Jewish friends" -- to IU faculty, staff and students who want to show their solidarity with the Jewish community. The response has surpassed expectations.
"The mezuzah is so significant for college students because when they come to campus, it's the first time they're creating a Jewish home, the first time they get to make that choice," said Rabbi Sue Silberberg, executive director of IU Hillel. "Unfortunately today, it also carries some risk because of antisemitism, so it's been really meaningful and important to Jewish students to see the mezuzahs on campus."
Silberberg said IU Hillel has distributed several hundred mezuzahs already, along with pamphlets explaining their meaning. They partnered with Union Board and the IMU to place them in doorways at the union, along with a sign that proclaims "There is no place for hate in our community."
"The IMU is the community center for the campus, and our mission statement starts with 'Welcoming all,'" said Hank Walter, executive director of the IMU. "This seemed like a great way to symbolically stand up and show the entire campus community they are welcome here."
Student leaders felt it was important to take some sort of action showing support for their peers, and they also hope the mezuzahs spread awareness on campus.
"Campus bodies who are in place to represent student interests are not letting antisemitism go unaddressed," said Diptanshu Rao, president of Union Board. "We want students to see the mezuzahs and say, 'Here is a place I can feel comfortable in my identity as a Jew' and not feel attacked or hated or anything of that sort."
Those interested in obtaining a mezuzah to place on campus can contact IU Hillel at email@example.com.