BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Bloomington Jewish community is sending a strong message of love and light days after multiple swastikas were found painted near and on the Indiana University campus.
”Beautiful things come from hate,” said Sophia Newman, an IU freshman.
Newman saw a swastika Saturday, painted on the side of a building in an alleyway near E. 6th Street and N. Lincoln in downtown Bloomington, just off the IU campus.
”I’ve never seen one in person myself, so it was just really shocking,” Newman said.
She said she later told Rabbi Levi Cunin, the Director of the IU Jewish Center. Newman said she’s spent a lot of time there her freshman year.
”Shaken up, she says, ‘I saw a swastika today.’” Cunin said. “And I was shocked.”
Cunin said he wanted to take action immediately.
”Within a second I’m like, ‘Sophia, lets light the menorah there,” Cunin said.
And that is what they did, Rabbi Cunin led a group of students as he lit the menorah just feet from where the swastika had been painted.
”It’s not a place of hate, campus is a place of love,” Cunin said during the menorah lighting.
”I think that really symbolizes the strength of the Jewish people and how we continue to be persecuted, we continue to be attacked and yet we don’t let that silence us,” Newman said.
This was not the only swastika found in Bloomington this weekend, the IU Police Dept. and the Bloomington Police Dept. are both investigating separate swastikas in their jurisdictions. Both swastikas were found on Saturday.
An IUPD spokesperson said they’re investigating a swastika found painted on a pillar of a railroad overpass near Jefferson St. on the IU campus.
A spokesperson for BPD said they are investigating a swastika painted in an alleyway on the 100 block of E. 6th St.
Newman said all three being discovered in the middle of Hanukkah is no coincidence to her.
”The fact that it’s during Hanukkah, I think its a direct attack,” Newman said.
All three swastikas have now been painted over. The one Newman first noticed was taken care of by the people it was meant to hurt the most.
”This was vandalism, spray painted on, so we’ll clean it up,” said Rabbi Cunin. After lighting the menorah, he and his students painted over the hateful symbol.
Newman said it was beautiful.
”We’re coming together and becoming stronger because of these things,” she said.
Newman said they refuse to be silenced about their Jewish pride.
”These people that commit these acts, they want us to be scared, they want us to be fearful, but if our response is love and pride they’re not getting what they want out of this,” she said.
Below are the full statements from IUPD and BPD on the swastikas both departments are investigating.
“On December 4, 2021 around 3:00 P.M., IUPD was dispatched to the railroad overpass just east of Jefferson Avenue, regarding a swastika painted on one of the pillars of the bridge. A person observed the swastika and called IUPD to report it. The reporting person stated that the paint looked fresh, but when the officer arrived it had dried. At this time, there are no suspects, and the swastika has been removed from the pillar. IUPD is aware of the swastika that was located off campus and at this time we don’t know if both crimes are connected by one person. If anyone has any information about this crime, please contact IUPD, 812-855-4111, and ask to speak to an officer.”
“On December 4th at approximately 7:21 p.m., the Bloomington Police Department received a phone call from a woman who wished to report seeing a swastika painted on a nearby building earlier that morning. The 20 year-old woman reported that at approximately 10:00 a.m., she observed a swastika painted on a gutter downspout on a building in the 100 block of E 6th Street. The downspout that had been painted was located in an alleyway. However, at the time that we were contacted, someone had already painted over the swastika. The case is active as we are trying to determine if the suspect(s) can be seen on any nearby cameras.”