Rutgers students condemn cemetery vandalism

When I first blogged about the cemetery vandalism in New Brunswick, I wrote Are we in Eastern Europe? I am pleased to say we are not. What is the difference? Here in Central New Jersey, not only is the Jewish community reacting with shock to the recent vandalism, but there is also condemnation from the general community.

From today’s Daily Targum, the Rutgers student newspaper:

“It is one of the most dramatic events you [can] see in a physical sense,” said Rutgers University Student Assembly treasurer Yonaton Yares, a School of Arts and Sciences student.

RUSA unanimously passed a resolution Thursday to get students involved in the site’s repair.

Members of the assembly said such a resolution was necessary in order to make a statement on behalf of the student body that such acts are unacceptable.

“[The resolution] shows that Rutgers University doesn’t tolerate that kind of crime, because we don’t want to destroy our diversity,” said College Avenue Council Vice President Yelena Shvarts, a Rutgers College junior.

The key to preventing such acts from occurring in the future is to become opinionated, said RUSA recording secretary Kathryn Jenkins, a Douglass College student.

Yares said this incident has brought together members of Rutgers Hillel.

“We have decided to say that Rutgers students – Jewish, non-Jewish, black, white or Latino – all care about this,” he said.

RUSA hopes the assembly can generate the same solidarity among students that the University community demonstrated during the Don Imus controversy last year to prevent future acts from occurring.

“When someone goes on the radio and attacks our women’s basketball team, they don’t just attack those women. They attack the entire Rutgers community,” said RUSA chair Jim Kline, a Rutgers College senior. “The same goes when you attack the Rutgers community and what it stands for.”

Surveyors are beginning to assess the damage done to the site in an attempt to estimate the amount that repairs will cost.

A week after the incident, four teenagers were arrested and charged for committing the vandalism, though the acts were not deemed anti-Semitic by authorities, according to The Associated Press.

But Kline said the acts are upsetting to the Jewish community.

“I think our voice as the student body lends an olive branch to the Jewish community. It allows students to enter into this dialogue about racism, sexism and, in this case, anti-Semitism,” Kline said. “It’s important to have these conversations now that we live in this bubble where we can openly discuss ideas and thoughts.”

Somehow I think there is a connection to the film I viewed by a Franklin Township student yesterday. Sonal Thawani’s film “Take a Stand Against Violence,” a 6-minute piece showed the positive action taken by her community’s youth in response to the recent violence in her township. It was heartening to see in Sonal’s film that many people in her community wanted to see a stop to the violence. Likewise, we all would like cemetery desecration to stop as well.

My main thought is it is easier to teach a five-year old to respect property, respect the dead, and respect others than a 17 year old. And as both cemetery desecration and violence against one’s peers reflect poor anger management, some kind of positive channeling is needed at a young age. I hardly profess to have answers, but I am good at asking the questions.

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