In an email to the Hopkins community on Sept. 2, the University reported an antisemitic incident which occurred on August 27. A University affiliate was walking with his son when a person in a passing vehicle shouted an antisemitic slur. This is the latest in a series of incidents in the Hopkins community targeting Jewish students that includes the discovery of graffiti in the form of swastikas in a dormitory elevator.
Noam Bentov, director of Hopkins Hillel, told The News-Letter that the recent antisemitic hate crimes point to a larger national issue.
“[This crime] points to an alarming reality that is not unique to Baltimore or to the Hopkins community,” Bentov said. “It is something that we see nationally — there is a rise in such incidents and crimes.”
According to Jill Rosen, director of media relations for the University, said the incident was reported to the Baltimore Police Department and Hopkins offered support to the individuals affected, including by filing a report with the Office of Institutional Equity. The incident was not referred to the Behavioral Health program, which is not functional yet.
Jewish Students Association Officer Sara Malina, who runs programming for first-year students at Hillel, had always felt proud to be able to tell new Jewish students that the campus is largely free of antisemitism.
“It’s always hard and sad to hear about things happening in your own community, especially to people you probably know,” Malina said in an interview with The News-Letter. “These kinds of incidents are jarring, especially in what I otherwise consider to be a very Jewish-friendly campus and community.”
Bentov feels that the University is taking adequate steps to respond to the incident.
“I do feel like the University is taking it very seriously,” Bentov said. “The administration, the Office of Institutional Equity and other departments of the University have reached out... There is an ongoing investigation.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics from 2020 show that hate crimes against Jews comprise 58% of all reported religiously motivated hate crimes that occur in the U.S. and that Jews are the third-largest targets of reported hate crimes. In June 2021, there were reports of four spray-painted swastikas in Fells Point. In July, 12 gravestones in Baltimore’s German Hill Road Jewish Cemeteries were defaced with swastikas.
Jewish students comprise 8% of both the undergraduate and graduate student populations at Hopkins.
Sophomore Harvey McGuinness discussed in an email to The News-Letter how he felt the incident is a reminder of the increasing presence of antisemitism nationally.
“When I went to Shabbat evening services for the first time this year, I was worried about wearing my yarmulke on the walk over due to fear that something might happen,” McGuinness wrote. “This isn’t to say that the Hopkins community isn’t welcoming — quite the contrary, nearly everyone here has been absolutely amazing and my overall experience has been fantastic.”
However, McGuinness feels the University could do more to ensure students’ safety.
“I don’t think the University took sufficient steps to protect students’ safety, but at the same time I also don’t know what those sufficient steps would look like,” McGuinness wrote. “I do know, however, that the emails I receive regarding a commitment to acceptance are starting to feel like empty promises.”
Hopkins Hillel Student Board President Alanna Margulies emphasized in an email to The News-Letter that it is important to be prepared to handle incidents which arise.
“I am confident that Hopkins Hillel, and indeed the broader Jewish community, takes pride in its identity as a vibrant, warm, and empowering community committed to Jewish traditions and values, totally independent of any hatred we face,” Margulies wrote. “We have the infrastructure and resources in place to address hate and discrimination as they come up, and making sure that people are aware of these procedures is an important part of my job as Hillel Student Board President.”
Margulies also emphasized how important it is to prevent antisemitism from defining Judaism and to combat it by celebrating the Jewish community on campus.
“When we define our community by the incidences of hate that we face, we lend credence to the image of Judaism disseminated by those who seek to cause us harm,” Margulies wrote. “In reality, I believe the best way to combat antisemitism is to continue to celebrate the things that make the Jewish community, and indeed many other communities on this campus, so wonderful and integral to campus life: our unique traditions and culture, our focus on being welcoming and righteous, and the home we seek to provide to the hundreds of Jews who call Johns Hopkins home.”
A list of resources for students who may need additional support due to impacts of recent incidents may be found here.