Dear Editor,

As the president of Hillel, the Jewish Student Association, I would like to request that you run a statement issued by our Executive Board regarding the inclusion of anti-Semitic messaging in the protest, especially given an image of a man holding a sign with a swastika was included in The Reflector's article regarding the protest.  Please let me know if there is anything that I can add for you to get it published in The Reflector. Here's the text of our statement: 

Hillel, the Jewish Student Association at Mississippi State, is an apolitical organization vowed by our constitution to refrain from political activism on-campus. It is, therefore, rare for our organization to comment on ongoing political matters and debates; however, the recent flurry of anti-mask and anti-vaccine signs which have been posted around the research park and Drill Field with messages such as "Heil State" with a swastika in place of the "S," "Stalin, Hitler, Biden, Keenum (MSU President Mark Keenum)" and "Fu** Mark Keenum" with a swastika in place of a "K" in the expletive are not political activism.

They are blatant examples of anti-Semitism and are wholly inappropriate. These signs not only poorly serve the messaging of anti-mask or anti-vaccine mandates but are unnecessarily offensive to the Jewish community on our campus. Hillel strongly condemns the inclusion of swastikas and references to Nazi leadership in any political messaging, including the signs found at the research park and carried on the Drill Field.  

Mississippi State University, as a whole, has been extremely welcoming and accepting of its growing Jewish population.  Just two years ago, Hillel and the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center hosted Holocaust survivor Sami Steigmann to speak to our campus community about the horrors of the Holocaust. The experiences of Mr. Steigmann and other survivors must be not belittled by comparing their heinous treatment to being required to wear a mask as a public safety precaution or receive a vaccine. Over 200 members of the community turned out in solidarity with the Mississippi State Jewish community following the tragic Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in 2018. Attendance at Mr. Steigmann's talks were laudable and supported by the university's teaching faculty and administration, especially the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center. 

We have enjoyed broad support from university administration, notably President Keenum, who was instrumental in establishing the first Jewish student scholarship in the state of Mississippi at MSU. Mississippi State University is not an anti-Semitic campus and Nazi imagery has no place on our campus, except in appropriate historical contexts and discussions regarding anti-Semitism.  

It is exceptionally rare that Jewish students experience anti-Semitism at our university, but it is vitally important that we renounce the inclusion of anti-Semitic imagery, especially the swastika, when they appear on our campus in inappropriate contexts, such as the signs at the research park. We ask that all members of the community take down these signs and report their posting to MSU Campus Police at 662-325-2121 or the Dean of Student Affairs' office.

To those who posted the signs, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the egregiousness of the Holocaust in order to understand why the inclusion of Nazi imagery is unreservedly inappropriate in your political messaging. Though you may have posted the signs with ignorance to the context of their offensive imagery, you have unnecessarily shaken the Jewish students of our campus. As national incidents of anti-Semitism continue to spike to heights unseen in decades, it is increasingly more challenging to determine what are targeted attacks against Jewish people and what are ignorant uses of Nazi imagery. We implore you to speak with university professors regarding the Holocaust and educate yourselves to avoid similar instances of unnecessary anti-Semitism. 

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