Hillel’s controversial signs grab attention of students

Kelly Petryszyn

Offensive sayings provoke dialogue

Hillel and the History Club posted signs around Risman Plaza yesterday to start conversations about discrimination on the 71st anniversary of Kristallnacht. The Jewish Studies Program sponsored “Witness,” featuring two local Holocaust survivors in the Kiv

Credit: DKS Editors

Signs reading “Whites only” and “Gay free zone” created a stir on campus yesterday. Students walked by with heads turned and puzzled looks on their faces. Some signs ended up in the trash or ripped out of the ground and torn to shreds.

Hillel, the Jewish student organization on campus, and the History Club were responsible for the signs, which were meant to represent all groups the Nazis discriminated against.

“The ultimate goal is to remind people of the Holocaust so it never happens again,” said Hillel board member Joel Abramson.

Students who approached Hillel in Risman Plaza yesterday could sign a poster that read “Never again” symbolizing their feelings against hate, discrimination and genocide.

Yesterday marked the 71st anniversary of Kristallnacht, the event that started the Holocaust. Also known as “the Night of Broken Glass,” Kristallnacht refers to when Nazis attacked Jewish businesses and synagogues in Germany and Austria on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938. During two days, Nazis arrested between 25,000 and 30,000 Jews and put them in concentration camps.

Hillel invited students to a program last night at the Kiva that featured two Holocaust survivors, Harry Koppel and George Kronnenberg, who shared their stories of Kristallnacht and how they escaped Nazi Germany.

The signs were posted both by the M.A.C. Center along the Esplanade and by the University Library at 11:30 a.m. About a half hour later, the signs by the M.A.C. Center were gone.

Abramson said it was OK some of the signs were removed, because it shows that people had a reaction to the hateful words. As he was speaking, he pointed out that he was a Jew sitting by a sign that read “No Jews Allowed.”

The signs were meant to spark controversy.

“You need dramatic approaches to cut through all the images you see every day,” said Mike Levinstein, assistant director of Hillel.

Emiko Omabegho, senior communication studies major, laughed at a sign that read “Catholics Convert « Mile Ahead” and stopped to take a photo of it on his cell phone.

He said some students will take the signs seriously, but he thinks they are funny because he knew the sign was meant to grab attention.

Levinstein said it is important to get hate out of our minds and into our conversation to break down barriers.

“Our goal is to get people talking, and people are talking,” he said.

Contact diversity reporter Kelly Petryszyn at [email protected].