Stanford University (Photo/File)
Stanford University (Photo/File)

Mezuzah ripped from Stanford residence on Rosh Hashanah, prompting hate crime inquiry

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A mezuzah was “torn off” a doorway at a graduate student residence at Stanford, the university announced on Sept. 27.

The antisemitic incident occurred while the Jewish students who lived in the apartment were attending Rosh Hashanah services, according to Rabbi Jessica Kirschner, executive director of Hillel at Stanford.

Rabbi Jessica Kirschner
Rabbi Jessica Kirschner

“The mezuzah was up before the students went to Rosh Hashanah services and was down when they came back,” said Kirschner, who said the school informed her about the incident.

The perpetrators are unknown, according to the university, but since the mezuzah was not recovered, the act may fall under “theft and vandalism” targeting a specific group, qualifying it as a hate crime.

“Targeting of mezuzahs is a form of intimidation and bigotry to the Jewish community,” the university said in a statement. In 2019, California passed a law enshrining the right of tenants to hang mezuzahs and other small religious objects outside their rental units.

The incident was reported using Stanford’s “Protected Identity Harm Reporting” system, a campus-wide channel designed in part to increase transparency surrounding the handling of bias incidents. It includes a public dashboard alerting the school community to hate crimes and incidents and letting people know how the investigation is progressing.

The incident came just weeks after reports that the first day of classes would conflict with Rosh Hashanah, a discrepancy Hillel called “unfortunate.” The university affirmed it would work to address the issue going forward.

Kirschner informed the Hillel community about the mezuzah vandalism via email, reporting that it took place at Escondido Village Graduate Residences.

Kirschner told J. that while the incident was disturbing, especially as it happened during the High Holidays, she didn’t want it to make students feel anxious about being Jewish at Stanford, which she described as a place with a robust and vibrant Jewish student life.

“Actually Stanford is a great place to be Jewish, and be a Jewish student,” she said.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.