Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Chabad House looks into security system
Rabbi Yehoshua Chincholker, director of the Chabad House Jewish Student Center, said he is tired.
He’s tired of the previous attacks on the center, and he said the situation does not appear to be improving.
“We just can’t afford (the attacks) anymore,” Chincholker said. “It’s very frustrating.”
The most recent vandalism case occurred when Chincholker found two Hebrew letters ripped from the front wall of the Chabad House on Nov. 2.
As no suspect was identified, Chincholker said he decided to install a new security system at the center and is now fundraising among students and the Bloomington community.
“We are looking to purchase an electronic surveillance camera that can help police identify the attackers in the future,” Chincholker said. So far, the center has raised about $1,000 with help from Zeta Beta Tau fraternity but is short by at least $3,000 of the total estimated cost.
Chincholker said the Chabad House was peaceful when he and his wife, Zlata Baila Chincholker, became the center directors in the early 1980s. But, in recent years, the center has been a frequent site of vandalism, some of it targeted and anti-Semitic in nature.
In 2007, a beer bottle was thrown into a window of the Chabad House and the word “Jewish” was stripped from the building’s wall. In November 2010, a limestone rock smashed through the back window just before Hanukkah. Before the end of the season, another rock was thrown at the building, damaging the window and a wall of the second-floor apartment.
“I felt so bad for that girl,” Chincholker said of the tenant who was nearly hit by the rock. “She was doing homework at 6 or 7 a.m. and became the innocent victim. Fortunately, she didn’t get hurt.”
The Chabad House is not the only Jewish cultural center in Bloomington recently targeted. The Helene G. Simon Hillel Center on Third Street was also a target in last year’s wave of anti-Semitic incidents.
Chincholker said he has reached out to other directors to coordinate a better way to protect the centers.
Located near the intersection of Seventh Street and Indiana Avenue, the Chabad House falls within the jurisdiction of the Bloomington Police Department, but Chincholker said BPD and the IU Police Department have worked together on the cases.
Officials at other IU cultural centers said they were also very concerned about such crimes and were shocked to learn these attacks are still happening at IU.
“I think other places have had a thing happen here and there but not to the degree as that of the Chabad House,” said La Casa Latino Cultural Center Director Lillian Casillas. “With anti-immigrant sentiment, I have been a bit worried, especially after the two flyers left inside the center week before classes started.”
In August, magnetic letters spelling out hateful expressions were found on the center’s fridge.
Doug Bauder, coordinator of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Support Services Office, said the office installed one security system when the center was first created.
A security system is also installed at Congregation Beth Shalom, a Bloomington Jewish community house located in the east side of the city.
“We haven’t had any problem with vandalism,” Beth Shalom member Madeline Hirschland said. “But, of course, it is impossible to know whether these facts are related or whether it’s simply the case that the synagogue is in an out-of-the-way location and is not on campus.”
As for the Chabad House, Chincholker said he hopes students and the community can help the center to provide a safer environment on campus, and he encourages people to contact him if they would like to donate. The donation process can be completed online.
“It costs a lot to run the center,” Chincholker said. “Electricity, gas, our dinner service — we’re all on our own.”