Jewish student center sign

Rabbi Shlomo Litvin of the Chabad of the Bluegrass holds the broken Jewish Student Center sign in front of the posts the sign was previously mounted on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Sunday evening, Chabad of the Bluegrass Rabbi Shlomo Litvin went to the UK Jewish Student Center on campus to supervise construction to the sidewalk outside of the center. After arriving, Litvin discovered the center’s sign and base of the large, outdoor menorah destroyed in what he believes to be a hate crime.

“I came outside the UK Jewish Student Center to supervise some construction on the sidewalk. I immediately noticed that both our welcome sign, which explains that we’re the Jewish Center, and our menorah, one of our most recognizable signs about Judaism and religious freedom, had been vandalized,” Litvin said.

Litvin was able to repair the menorah, however the $600 sign will need to be replaced.

“The sign had been bashed in, and the menorah had been loosened from its base. The menorah was quickly repairable, although at some cost, however, it currently looks like the sign is going to need to be replaced,” Litvin said.

The vandalism to the UK Jewish Student Center comes after arson destroyed the University of Delaware Chabad Center this past August, and anti-Semitic pamphlets were left at a Chabad center in Florida.

“This attack on the center is particularly painful as it joins a string of recent attacks on Jewish centers on campus all across the country, including the arson of the Chabad Center at University of Delaware,” Litvin said.

UK’s Chabad Center is no stranger to anti-Semitic attacks. This is the fourth time in five years their sign has been destroyed.

“Sadly this is the fourth time our sign has been vandalized, and it joins quite a few other anti-Semitic incidences that have happened on campus,” Litvin said.

A previous Kernel article details the January 2018 vandalization of the UK Jewish Student Center’s sign.

While no one witnessed the vandalization last Sunday, in 2018, Litvin heard young adults yelling “Heil Hitler,” “Get the Jews, kill the Jews” and other similar lines outside the Jewish Student Center, and watched as one of them damaged the sign.

The next day, Litvin and his young daughter used the sign as a sled to sentiment the Martin Luther King Jr. quote, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." 

“Because a broken sign can be used in two ways,” he said. “It can be used as an object of fear, of intimidation; but even a broken sign can be used as an object of joy and love, and I chose to do that,” Litvin said in 2018.

Today, Litvin feels the same way. The UK Jewish Center will not be intimidated or live in fear.

“Hateful acts like these intend to intimidate and frighten other people, and although this attack causes great pain, we are not intimidated, we are not frightened, and we will continue to proudly celebrate our Judaism at the University of Kentucky,” Litvin said.

There were no witnesses to Sunday’s vandalization, however crime scene footage is currently being reviewed by the police.

“While there were no witnesses of the crime, we do have cameras and security are currently going through them,” Litvin said.

The UK Jewish Center follows the words of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe in continuing on after this incident.

“The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the foremost leader of world Judaism in the modern era, always taught we must counter Darkness with light. We will not only continue in our current activities but this will only motivate us to add to our current offerings,” Litvin said.

Litvin hopes UK will condemn this act of violence and other hateful acts.

“The University can create a more inclusive environment by being more vocal against hate. Racist bigoted or anti-Semitic incidences are rarely met with comment, and the University can take more of a stand,” Litvin said.