UK Jewish Student Center shines light on attack

By McKenna Horsley

Rabbi Shlomo Litvin and one of his colleagues came to the UK Jewish Student Center and Chabad on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 27 to find someone had vandalized the center.

The center’s Mezuzah, a scroll in a case hanging on the center’s door, was damaged, Livtin said.

He also said someone attempted to destroy the Menorah, which is a Jewish symbol of religious freedom.

The center was a subject of a hate crime, Litvin said. He said he reported the incident to Lexington police. Litvin said he and the police have no suspects.

Litvin said the center typically serves anywhere from 200 to 300 UK students. He said if the vandalism had happened on a Friday, the Jewish day of Sabbath, many students could have been inside the center. He said the Jewish Student Center is the largest Jewish Student organization on campus.

He said the vandalism is not the first anti-semitic attack the UK Jewish community has faced recently. Within the past year, he has heard of Jewish students being verbally abused and physically intimidated.

UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said the university has already taken some steps after the crime was reported.  

“We take these issues very seriously and want to do everything possible to ensure that our campus and our students whether they are on or off campus are safe and feel a sense of belonging,” Blanton said.

Interim Vice President of Institutional Diversity Terry Allen and Bias Incident Response Coordinator Carol Taylor-Shim reached out to Litvin, Blanton said. They told the Rabbi about university resources that he and any students impacted can use to report incidents of bias.

In an email to Litvin, Taylor-Shim said her role at the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center is to provide “advocacy, support and options” to those who have experienced identity-based violence.

The Bias Incident Response Team allows anyone in the UK community to report incidents of bias online at the VIP Center’s website.

Blanton also said Allen contacted President Eli Capilouto about the crime against the Jewish Student Center. Blanton said Allen and Taylor-Shim met with Capilouto’s Chief of Staff Bill Swinford to further discuss outreach and what steps the university can take.

Litvin said the center will remain open for all students and is looking to expand its Jewish-based programming because of the crime.

He said the center has a Friday night dinner every week that all are welcome to attend and learn about Jewish customs and beliefs. He said the dinner is free but attendees must RSVP ahead of time.

The center and Chabad have received an outpouring of support from other campus organizations, Litvin said. He said the love on UK’s campus is “far greater than any other force.”

“We have a strong belief that the only answer to hatred and darkness is more light,” Litvin said.