Hillel at Mississippi State University issued a statement on Oct. 26 that “strongly condemns” the use of Nazi imagery, especially swastikas, by those opposing the university’s Covid mask mandate and vaccine mandate for faculty.
The Hillel executive board stated that as a “vowed” apolitical organization, it is unusual for them to speak out “on ongoing political matters and debates” but felt compelled to do so in the face of current anti-mandate protests.
Anti-mask signs were posted around the research park and Drill Field, saying “Heil State” with a swastika in place of the s, criticizing University President Mark Keenum with “Hitler, Stalin, Biden, Keenum” or stating “F— Keenum” with a swastika replacing the k and a Soviet hammer and sickle replacing the c. The signs “are not political activism,” the Hillel statement read. “They are blatant examples of anti-Semitism and wholly inappropriate,” poorly serving the messaging of anti-mask activists.
In the Facebook post announcing the statement, Hillel said “Being required to wear a mask in campus buildings is not at all akin to the horrors of Nazism, and those horrors must not be belittled in this way.”
They cited how Mississippi State hosted Holocaust survivor Sam Steigmann two years ago, and that the university as a whole “has been extremely welcoming and accepting of its growing Jewish population,” along with setting up the first Jewish student scholarship in the state.
They added, “Mississippi State University is one of the most ideal universities a Jewish student can attend in the SEC.”
In the statement, the Hillel leaders said anti-Semitic sentiment is “exceptionally rare” on campus, but “it is vitally important” to renounce the imagery on the signs. “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,” and though those who made the signs may have been ignorant of the context, “you have unnecessarily shaken the Jewish students of our campus.”
It is estimated that there are a couple dozen Jewish students at Mississippi State.