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Nazi graffiti in University of Minnesota dorm draws outrage

The following article by Haley Hanson was posted on the Star Tribune website February 9, 2017:

‘Do you feel empowered doing this?’ said targeted student on Facebook.

A University of Minnesota student’s Facebook post showing anti-Semitic graffiti he said he found in his dorm room is drawing outraged responses Thursday.

According to U student Avi Shaver, someone drew a swastika and a concentration camp on the white board located inside his room. The board also had “Nazis rule” scrawled across it.

In a public Facebook post, Shaver said he is “very vocal about [his] Judaism.” He also questioned how the alleged perpetrator knew where he lived and how he or she got into his room.

“Do you feel empowered doing this?” he wrote. “What benefit do you gain by making a person feel afraid?”

Shaver’s post has garnered more than 700 “likes” and dozens of comments, with many friends and fellow students decrying the graffiti. Shaver was not immediately available for an interview.

“We are deeply concerned by this incident and we urge anyone with information about the vandalism to come forward and report it to law enforcement. We will continue to monitor the situation,” said Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), in a Thursday news release.

Minnesota Hillel is working with the school’s Office of Student Affairs and University Police to ensure the incident is taken seriously, according to the release.

The group will stress the importance of supporting one another at its weekly Shabbat event, said Benjie Kaplan, executive director of Minnesota Hillel.

“It’s important to come together as a community” Kaplan said.

Student members of the group’s board will meet Thursday evening to discuss the incident and find ways to address it and prevent similar events, he said.

Kaplan said the incident is unusual in that it singles out one student, whereas previous anti-Semitic actions on campus, like a swastika drawn in the snow at the practice football field last month, have been more broad.

Kaplan said targeted groups can do more to support one another.

“We realize it most that we’re in a bubble when things like this affect us,” he said.

Rabbi Yitzi Steiner, the co-director of the Rohr Center for Jewish Student Life at the U, wrote in a statement that Shaver has filed reports with authorities.

“We have been in touch with the student who was targeted, and while he is shaken, he has shown remarkable resilience,” he said.

University officials were not immediately available for comment.

Haley Hansen is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.

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