In the span of one weekend, the same Claremont McKenna College student was the victim of two separate crimes that targeted his Jewish heritage.
Bryan Turkel CMC ’15 first had his Israeli flag, which was draped across the window of his ground-floor dorm room, stolen the night of Sept. 18.
“The next morning, when I came back from breakfast at 8:30 a.m., I realized that my screen door was off, but figured that someone had been drunk and ripped it off,” Turkel said in an interview with the Claremont Independent. “But then, it was only later in the day that, when I went to go hang something up, and I was like, ‘Wait, my flag is gone.’”
“They ripped off the screen door, must have just grabbed a handful of flag, and ripped it down.”
Turkel reported the second incident when he noticed that his mezuzah, a scroll commonly hung on the doors of Jewish homes, was missing the afternoon of Sept. 22.
While Turkel noted that the first crime could have been perceived as purely politically motivated, the theft of the second item, which carries no political significance and only relates to his status as a Jew, leads him to believe that both crimes were motivated by anti-Semitic attitudes.
“Non-Jews might hang up an Israeli flag, but non-Jews do not hang up mezuzahs,” Turkel said. “[Stealing] the mezuzah is not a political statement, the mezuzah is anti-Semitism, and the mezuzah is a hard-line hate crime. And the fact that the two were linked so close in time takes the doubt out of my mind that the first one was politically motivated and not anti-Semitic.”
Turkel also said that outright anti-Semitism is often allowed to operate under the guise of anti-Israeli political views.
“[These incidents] serve as a great example for how classic anti-Semitism is being cleanly repackaged as anti-Israeli sentiment and then perpetrated under that name,” Turkel said. “It’s still the same old hatred that caused the Holocaust; it’s still out and about today. But it operates under the name of something else today.”
“People are not realizing the severity and the implications of something like, in Belgium, a woman putting up a sign saying, ‘Dogs are allowed, but no Jews,’ and this is 2014, this isn’t 1939,” Turkel said. “The fact that this is happening and the world is basically ignorant or apathetic to it is very dangerous. Jews are feeling unsafe.”
Although he reported the first incident to Campus Safety, Turkel said that the investigation got several key facts wrong, including calling the Israeli flag a “Jewish” flag and misreporting that he had never been the victim of anti-Semitism on campus before (he was called a “Kike” his sophomore year), which led him to go straight to CMC’s Dean of Students office to report the second crime.
“[Campus Safety] did not seem to give the appropriate tone and severity to responding to a hate incident,” Turkel said. “In their report to Dean Spellman that I got to see, it was very obvious that they did not listen to anything I said.”
“The way that they handled it was so unprofessional, that I didn’t go back.”
CMC Dean of Students Mary Spellman sent out a campus-wide email informing students of the incidents Sept. 23.