Threats of annihilation didn’t cause Shliach Rabbi Shlomo Litvin to cower in fear. In fact, it did just the opposite: He announced a brand new building campaign in the works.
By: Anash.org reporter
Last week, the Jewish Center for Students serving the University of Kentucky, was assailed with multiple anti-Semitic and violent threats. Instead of cowering in fear, the Chabad Rabbi and Jewish community have forged full-force ahead in their next campaign to build a permanent center for their activities.
Rabbi Shlomo Litvin, the shliach on campus of the University of Kentucky, is no stranger to threats directed at him. As the main public Jewish figure in his area, he is a direct target for assaults for anyone looking to target a known Jewish icon.
Rabbi Litvin serves on the board of the Kentucky Human Rights Commission, advises the legislative and executive branches regarding any Jewish affairs, and is the chaplain in the State House. He also is the current chairman of the Kentucky Jewish Council which is the leading Jewish organization and voice in Kentucky.
Being in such a prominent position, unfortunately makes him an often target for anti-Semitic threats, so when the Chabad text service answering machine started beeping with vitriolic messages, he wasn’t surprised, but he was immediately alarmed.
“The trouble about theses messages, was the operative terms they were using. In the Thursday message, there were references to mapping out the Chabad Center. I contacted the police immediately on Thursday. On Shabbos, the texts started threatening to blow up the Student Center- they referenced gas chambers and extermination. On Motzei Shabbos we were barraged with even more aggressive messages.”
The local police force and detectives were instantly responsive and took the matter seriously immediately. Detectives tracked the message system and were led to a former university employee by the name of Sendil Nathan who was found Sunday morning and apprehended and arrested that afternoon.
Many leaders and politicians reached out in support of Chabad and made statements but the University has remained suspiciously silent, even publishing a statement distancing themselves from the Jewish Center, with the representative of UK even stating:
“As the Chabad Center is not affiliated with the institution, and is located off campus, our understanding is that Lexington police are investigating.”
Rabbi Litvin and the university students are understandably indignant and disappointed at the lack of responsibility being taken by the University of Kentucky in defending their Jewish students, especially that the aggressor is a former employee of theirs.
“My Zaidy was arrested in Ukraine for learning Torah. In history we see a pattern that we can never trust the government to protect us. That is, up until we came to America- which the Rebbe calls a medina shel chessed, a country of kindness.
“The Rebbe, who survived Bolshevik Russia, Nazi invasion, knew firsthand of governments who let their Jewish citizens die and actively pursued them. When the Rebbe came to America, he said that the government here is different and we can clearly see it,” shares Rabbi Litvin.
The students of UK attend a daily Chitas shiur that Rabbi Litvin holds. That day, right before the shiur, he briefed the students about what was going on with the onslaught of threats directed at Chabad, and how the police were involved and taking care of the matter.
In an amazing case of Hashgacha Pratis, the first possuk in the Chumash of that day was “Shoftim, v’shotrim titen licha...” “You should appoint judges and police to enforce laws in all the cities.” Without law enforcement, things would be chaotic all around.
“Right away, the detectives took my call and got on the case. Within three days they found the guilty party and had him arrested- it’s the university that clearly chose to be ignorant and hateful about the matter. We see a rising trend of anti-Semitic attacks in America nowadays and we need to stand up to it,” says Rabbi Litvin emphatically.
The best was to stand up to anti-Semitism is by growing stronger and prouder in our Yiddisheit. The Chabad of UK will be doing that in a massive way now, with the announcement of a new building they will be purchasing for hosting all of the Jewish activities.
“The plans for the new building was in the making for a long while, and was going to have its debut announced at our annual student barbeque. We hold it as an orientation for the new students, and a welcome back to the old ones.
“This year, the event will be held on this coming Sunday, but in light of recent events, we announced the exciting plans earlier to boost the morale of the students and community members,” says Rabbi Litvin. “We fight darkness with light, and evil with goodness.”
The current Chabad house has many limits on the security available because drilling cameras in a leased property is not allowed, and there are multiple other obstacles in the way of having a proper surveillance system installed.
The new building will have a high tech security system that was not in the previous facility. Now, the building will be equipped with 24/7 surveillance cameras and fiber optic technology, with a security room that will keep a pulse on the happenings at all times.
“We announced our new building GoFundMe that we are holding for the next two weeks. All of the donations will be tripled by our generous friends who are partnering up to make this dream happen for the Jewish community of Bluegrass, Kentucky,” says Rabbi Litvin.
The new Jewish Student Center will be large enough to host the multiple classes, programs, and lectures for the community and the university students as well. Jewish families from around are so hopeful and grateful to see Chabad taking the lead and proudly stepping up in this harrowing time.
At a time when most people would take a step down and try to attract less attention, Chabad of Bluegrass is taking the opportunity to grow even bigger and better and refuses to back down to those that threaten or try to intimidate the Jewish people.
To help fight anti-Semitism and take part in this amazing new initiative, donate to the new building campaign and click here.