EAST LANSING – Holding back tears, Cindy Hughey explains the heartbreak she feels towards the wave of anti-Semitism happening in America.
Hughey is the executive director of the Lester and Jewell Morris Hillel Jewish Community Center in East Lansing. Hughey says she’s never seen anything like what has been happening the past few months. Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized and Jewish centers across the country have received bomb threats.
“It’s really kind of frightening. I am 60 years old. I have never seen anything like this before. Ever,” said Hughey.
Two years ago, Hughey took a group of students to Poland where they did community service in Jewish cemeteries. The cemeteries were completely neglected with stones knocked down and desecrated.
“They are left in this horrible state of disrepair and having that happen here was just shocking,” said Hughey.
What’s even more surprising to Hughey is how long this has gone without attention.
“This wave of anti-Semitism has only recently gotten attention nationally but this has been going on. Hundreds of calls of bomb threats have been going on for well over a year and nobody has publicized it,” said Hughey. “It’s just that nobody pays attention to it which is really that much more shocking.”
Michigan State freshman, Elizabeth Marks agrees with Hughey.
“Threats like this have been a thing for a while and now that there is such a large amount of hate crimes, they are finally putting it in the news but it happens all the time,” said Marks.
Marks is a member of the Jewish Hillel Community Center and the Jewish sorority, Sigma Delta Tau. She explains how the recent events have made it difficult for her to wear her SDT clothing comfortably, knowing that others may be making preconceived judgements before meeting her.
Hughey explains how Hillel has been working with the university to bring awareness to the campus so students do not feel discriminated against.
“We have done surveys and forums where we brought students together with university people. We really try to get a pulse of where students are in terms of anti- Semitism,” says Hughey.
Paulette Granberry Russel, the senior advisor to the president for diversity at Michigan State University, explains the goal for the Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives office.
“We want to inform students about the values of this institution and provide them opportunities to engage with those that are different. The goal is to reduce the likelihood of prejudice incidents happening,” said Russel.
Marks finds comfort knowing she has her sorority and Hillel to go to during this time. However, the only way she’ll completely be at ease is knowing national leaders are doing something to put an end to these targets.
Marks believes that many people behind these crimes are Trump supporters but she doesn’t think President Trump himself is anti- Semitic. Marks says President Trump is not doing enough to protect the Jewish community because he does not want to lose his supporters.
“They (your supporters) are not going to impeach you for standing up for a minority group,” said Marks. “Do this for your Jewish son-in-law and do this for your future nieces and nephews and stand up for the Jewish community and make us feel like this isn’t going to be another Holocaust because as of right now that’s what it is feeling like.”
Political science major, Jesse Yaker, agrees that President Trump is not doing enough to defend the Jewish community. Yaker believes that President Trump only appeals to a certain group of people and his support from them may be lost if he openly defends Jews.
Yaker says that although it has slowly been receiving attention, it has not been enough in stopping these hate crimes.
“Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, was the first big name to say something but since him there has been congressmen and foreign affairs people who have commented on it,” said Yaker. “It’s making strides. All you want is it to stop and until that happens what action are they doing if nothing is happening.”
When asked about a letter signed to President Trump by 167 US state representatives for a special envoy to be put in place, Hughey thinks more needs to be done.
“The only thing that’s going to stop it is figuring out who’s doing this. Whatever group of people or person who is doing this is disrupting our community,” said Hughey. “I think that the only real solution is putting some resources into catching these people. What is this envoy? I mean I really have not understood it.”
Hughey’s advice in these hostile times is to expose yourself to different cultures, especially the Jewish culture, because it is very hard to hate someone you know.