Students admit to vandalizing campus menorah just days before Hanukkah
The university will hold hearings for the two students 'as the Hamilton Police Department considers criminal charges.'
The menorah's rededication comes after the Chabad of Hamilton President helped raise over $20,000.
Two students at Colgate University in New York admitted to vandalizing a campus menorah.
The incident comes just days before Hanukkah and amidst rising reports of anti-Semitism across the country.
According to a report by WKTV, the students “admitted to being intoxicated.”
Colgate Chaplain and Campus Rabbi Barry Baron told Campus Reform that fraternity members “thought it would be fun to steal the menorah for display in their house's living room.”
“Other house members prevailed on the two thieves to return the menorah, and their drunken condition led to their dropping it into Chabad's yard, which caused it to break,” Baron said.
Colgate student Jackson Fox told Chabad.org that the incident “‘really hit close to home.’”
Fox “‘had been feeling numb to antisemitism after seeing so much of it going on around the world’” according to Chabad.org.
[RELATED: Menorah vandalized 4 times in 2 years, Jewish group claims]
Chabad.org reported that the university will hold hearings for the two students “as the Hamilton Police Department considers criminal charges.”
A GoFundMe campaign coordinated by Sophie Neugarten, the Chabad of Hamilton President, has raised over $20,000. The fundraising goal listed on GoFundMe is $1,950.
Neugarten credited the funds raised to Rabbi Shmuly and Chaya Haskelevic, the Chabad of Madison County directors.
She told Chabad.org “‘that the amount of money raised in such a short time shows the impact that the Haskeleviches have had on the campus.’”
Neugarten references news stories on rising cases of anti-Semitism.
“‘Considering everything that’s going on with our modern world and celebrities getting a lot of publicity for their antisemitism, it was really scary to think that something of that caliber was happening at a place where I felt so safe and at home,’” Neugarten said.
[RELATED: Ex-Dartmouth student faces felony charges for alleged role in menorah vandalism]
Kanye West is one recent case of celebrity anti-Semitism. West posted antisemitic tweets and shared conspiracy theories invoking what the Anti-Defamation League calls “‘myths about Jewish greed and power and control of the entertainment industry.’”
Regarding the menorah’s rededication after the GoFundMe campaign, Fox told Chabad.org, “'With the turnout so good, I’d really like to turn this into more future conversations and more engagement with the Jewish life on campus because I think college is the time in your life where you’re figuring out what matters to you, and Judaism is a big part of that.'”
Colgate’s Diversity and Inclusion program includes “student-led religious organizations” that “support education and acceptance with frequent interfaith initiatives and events.”
Baron told Campus Reform that religious life at Colgate “is special.” “We are helped by the University's strategic decision, five decades ago, that chaplains for various religions should be hired directly by the University,” Baron said.
He referred Campus Reform to an article in Colgate Magazine describing the history of religious life on campus and recent efforts in “[b]uilding an interfaith community.”
“Yes, Jewish students celebrate Rosh Hashanah in the Saperstein Center, and Christians observe candlelight Mass in the chapel, but they also make time to come together,” the article says.
Campus Reform asked Baron whether the chaplains will host any events related to the menorah’s vandalism.
“Since this is not a case of antisemitism breaking out on a campus from which it has been absent, further activity on our part seems unnecessary,” Baron said.
Baron described some of Colgate’s interfaith efforts to Campus Reform. “Our interfaith initiatives this year include The Well, a Friday evening program that provides alcohol-free social space, hosted by a different religious group each week, and Morning Reflections, a Wednesday morning program that draws faculty, staff, and students together to hear colleagues speaking on spiritual/religious topics, and listening to music that the speaker selects,” Baron said.
He continued, “Our campus's MLK Week this year will feature an interfaith student panel." The panel will address "their religious lives' impact on their life as Colgate students.”
Baron told Campus Reform that the “chaplains' offices are adjacent to one another in one location, which facilitates” collaboration.
Campus Reform contacted Colgate University, the Colgate Jewish Union, the Chaplains Office, Fox, and Rabbi Shmuly for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.