Note under door chides Jewish studies program

An upsetting note was slipped under the door of the Swig Judaic studies department at the University of San Francisco on Monday.

Saying "Please stop spreading YOUR propaganda to the unsuspecting students on this campus, enough lies have been told already," the note was without a signature or affiliation.

Professor Andrew Heinze, head of the Judaic studies department, said he often received pieces of anti-Semitic mail when he authored opinion pieces, but he could always tell that they came from off-campus.

"This though, I don't know where it came from. It feels like something on campus," he said.

Heinze said that despite a mostly tolerant atmosphere on the Jesuit campus, two Jewish students recently withdrew from a politics class they felt was being taught from a vehemently anti-Israel perspective. Additionally, he said, the tension in the Middle East could have provoked the note.

Seth Brysk, director of San Francisco Hillel, which includes USF as well as San Francisco State University, said that reception to Hillel at the Jesuit university "has been very positive and welcoming. I've never encountered anything but positive reception there. I'm deeply concerned by this."

Some graffiti was found on campus, but it was impossible to tell how old it was, and whether it was intended to be anti-Semitic. Two five-pointed stars were scrawled on a building, with DOG and GOD written nearby.

"It could be an anti-Semite with no aesthetic sense," said Heinze, "but we also don't know when it appeared there. Because we don't know the timing, it's kind of ambiguous how to interpret it."

Jonathan Bernstein, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said that the strife in the Middle East in the past few weeks was creating a tense atmosphere on college campuses in general.

"I think many Jewish students are feeling vulnerable and isolated and not knowing how to respond to all these things," he said. "They're afraid they may become a target."

Jacqui Zadik, a Jewish senior at USF, called the note "very disturbing."

"Four or five of us have really been trying to bring some education about Israel on campus, but this stuff isn't helping," she said.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."