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Mezuzahs against hate

KU student Sam Matsil affixes a brand-new mezuzah on his door that he received from KU Chabad.

In the wake of recent events that took place at the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Jewish college students around the country have been reflecting on how comfortable they may feel on a college campus today.

As students returned to the University of Kansas last week, my wife Nechama and I were there for them as we always are, but now even more so, in the wake of the horrific events that occurred during that march of hate, which has deeply impacted the lives of so many.

As students struggle to figure out how to respond to such darkness and hate, some feel that perhaps it is best to lower our profile or humble our stature. It is in response to these doubts that Chabad at KU has intensified its annual Mezuzah Campaign, doubling its efforts to ensure that every single Jewish student has a mezuzah proudly displayed on his or her dorm room, apartment or house.

With this campaign, we aim to inspire our students that as Jews our response must be to remain proud of who we are and even increase our Jewish pride more than before. Our answer to anti-Semitism should always be to elevate Jewish pride, display our visible Jewish values and deepen our connection to our magnificent tradition.

While many are responding with noise, protests and dramatic Facebook rants, Chabad is putting up more and more mezuzot each day, one door at a time. For it is not enough to focus on that which we are fighting against; we must also know that which we are fighting for. With every mezuzah that goes up, another young Jewish student is showing their Jewish pride and connection, thereby shaping the world by our actions.

As Junior Evan Fruhauf from Wichita, Kansas, described it, “Putting up a mezuzah is special for me because even though I am away from home, having a mezuzah on my door makes me think of my family and feel at home.”

Placing a mezuzah is not only a powerful Jewish experience for the occupant of that dorm room or apartment, but it is also a great way to promote Jewish awareness to an entire Greek house or dormitory. A mezuzah offers protection for yourself and your own home, but also brings comfort to others. Amazingly, every student who places a mezuzah on their door then becomes empowered about their own mezuzahs to serve as a leader towards others.

“Having a mezuzah on your door reminds you who you are as a Jewish person. When I walk up to my room and I see the mezuzah hanging, it makes me feel proud to be a Jew,” explained sophomore Sammy Green.

Focusing on one’s Jewish identity often takes a back seat to students’ college obligations. The mezuzah, said Green, has so far been a reminder to him to also focus on Jewish observance.

“Every time I walk through the door it reminds me what I need to do Jewishly.”

Chabad’s philosophy is that when faced with fear or doubt, we respond with action. Mezuzahs are a great start because that’s a connection we have between our homes and our creator. When a student walks past a mezuzah, he or she feels protected and empowered.

The KU Mezuzah Campaign is generously sponsored by Kansas City community leaders Howard and Ro Jacobson, and is open to all current students. If you have a child or a friend at KU who needs a mezuzah for their dorm room, apartment, or house, please contact Chabad at KU for details about the Mezuzah Campaign or reserve one for them online at www.JewishKU.com.

Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel is co-director of KU Chabad along with his wife, Nechama.