A mezuzah was torn down, 100 more are being installed
By: Aharon Loshak
When Elie Codron, a student at Northeastern University in Boston, walked into the local Hillel for morning prayer services, he wasn’t expecting to hear the news Rabbi Mendy Posner of the campus Chabad House had to tell him.
“The mezuzah on the front door is gone,” Posner told him. “I looked around and found the casing, but the scroll is nowhere to be found. This is clearly a targeted act.”
“My immediate reaction was that it must have been an accident,” Codron told Chabad.org. “I refused to believe that we had been targeted with an antisemitic act. Not here, in peaceful, quaint Northeastern University. But the rabbi was adamant.”
Sure enough, after reporting to campus police and a review of nearby security footage, it became clear: The joint morning minyan hosted by Hillel and Chabad had been subjected to blatant antisemitism; someone had deliberately ripped the mezuzah scroll off the wall and made away with it.
Originally from Belgium, Codron is not unfamiliar with such events. Still, it struck a raw nerve.
“Right then and there, I decided that we must respond,” said Codron. “I’ve been taught so many times and truly believe that the best way to respond to such things is with Jewish pride. I tell people all the time: Antisemitism exists is literally the oldest hatred in the world. It’s up to us how we’re going to respond. We can either cower in fear, or we can go in the opposite direction. From what I’ve seen, it’s only the second option that works. They want us to be scared, so we respond with even more pride.”
A Groundswell of Support
But few could have anticipated the outpouring of Jewish pride and spontaneous displays of solidarity just the next day. Word spread throughout the Jewish community of Northeastern and beyond that Monday and Tuesday, forming a groundswell of support. “On their own, the students decided that they must make a big deal out of this,” said Posner, “and so, on Wednesday morning, there was a huge crowd for the morning minyan.”
Just after prayers, still wearing their tallit and tefillin, the large crowd went outside to put up a new mezuzah. Unable to contain himself, Codron jumped into the middle and took the figurative microphone. “I really wasn’t planning on speaking, but it just came pouring out of me,” said the student.
He spoke passionately of how they must respond with pride, spontaneously announcing that over the next week “we’re going to put up 100 new mezuzahs across campus!”
Using social media, Codron and his friends posted all over their various channels, and sure enough, requests are pouring in. Just days after, the Jewish student community hosted a mega-challah bake at Chabad. There, too, Codron announced, “Everyone, take out your phones and text the word ‘mezuzah’ to this number if you need one.”
“Students have been struggling with anti-Semitism on campus since last spring and through the summer,” said Posner, “and it’s been simmering under the surface for quite some time. Ironically, this incident has really pulled everyone together, and the feeling of unity and Jewish pride is stronger than ever.”
“Of course, we would like to thank the faculty, staff and law enforcement of Northeastern University for all of their support,” he added.
Gilad Skolnick, executive director of Hillel, also sees this incident as both a sobering reminder and a catalyst for greater Jewish engagement. “Jewish students here are safe, and Jewish life is thriving,” he said. “We are saddened by the recent destruction of our mezuzah from our building. While we are concerned by the nationwide and worldwide surge of anti-Semitism, we are moving forward with proactive educational programming and providing mezuzahs to every student who needs one.”