Mezuzah vandalized at Northeastern Hillel


Erin Fine

Northeastern Hillel is located at 70 Saint Stephen Street.

Erin Fine, news correspondent

A mezuzah that hung on a door frame at the Northeastern Hillel House was found torn down on Oct. 18. The parchment inside, containing verses from the Torah, was missing.

Elie Codron, president of the Chabad at Northeastern University and a fourth-year international affairs major, arrived at the Northeastern Hillel to manage morning services as usual. As Codron and a small group, including Rabbi Mendy Posner, entered through a back door, Rabbi Posner pointed out the fallen mezuzah.

“I am someone that tries to be very positive,” Codron said. “I am trying to find all the excuses, like it probably fell on the floor because of the wind, or someone with their bag made it fall in the night, but the Rabbi said it was nailed to the wall. The nail was completely bent.”

A mezuzah is a piece of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah, including the prayer “Shema Yisrael,” inside a decorative casing. Jewish law mandates a mezuzah in the doorpost of Jewish houses to allow God to enter and protect those inside. The parchment inside is considered a piece of holy text and is treated with respect.

“To Jews, it resignifies this protection that God is giving us into our house,” Codron said. “There’s not even a question … that it’s an antisemitic act. That person knew exactly what they were doing.”

Eric Weiss, president of the Northeastern Hillel, echoed the sentiment that the mezuzah was targeted as an expression of Jewish faith.

“When [a mezuzah] gets taken down, a sign of good health and hospitality, it’s really a slap in the face to a religious community as a whole,” Weiss said. “Going out of your way to defame what it stands for is disheartening.”

Codron said the Northeastern University Police Department was contacted shortly after the Northeastern Hillel’s Executive Director Gilad Skolnick arrived on the scene Monday morning. The investigation is ongoing and police believe the suspect is not associated with Northeastern.

Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun condemned the vandalism in an email on Oct. 20.

“No matter its origin, this despicable act has left members of our Jewish community justifiably upset, saddened, and even fearful,” Aoun said. “They are experiencing firsthand an instance of senseless hate, coming at a time when the ancient scourge of anti-Semitism is on the rise across the U.S. and around the world.”

Weiss said he was disappointed with the university’s delayed response. Several Jewish students asked the university to comment on the vandalism the day the mezuzah was found, but Aoun offered no response for two days.

“While they did finally release that statement, it seemed more like a reaction to our reaction, rather than a reaction to the incident,” Weiss said.

Despite the Northeastern Jewish community’s disappointment toward the university’s response, Codron said students have stepped up in support.

“We’re so proud of being Jewish. It’s not this little act of hate that will make us afraid,” Codron said. “The Rabbi got so many messages from students about hanging mezuzahs on their door. The best way to fight Jew hatred is by showing Jewish pride.”

In a video posted to Twitter on Wednesday, Codron promised to hang a new mezuzah in the doorway. Students of the Chabad and Hillel posted the larger mezuzah after Wednesday’s daily morning services. 

“The Jewish community has been in similar positions before, and will sadly be in similar positions in the future,” Weiss said.

Other colleges around Boston have reported antisemitic vandalism recently. 

A poster advertising an event sponsored by the Hillel at Emerson College was vandalized on Oct. 14 with graffiti that mocked the Holocaust. On Sept. 4, a student at Tufts University had a mezuzah torn from the doorpost of his dorm room. 

“It’s just all these things that keep adding up,” Codron said. “When will people finally wake up and when will universities take action?”