“YOU CAN’T HAVE
THIS BE FORT KNOX,
Heal Fund as a
Source of Protection
Rabbi Jake Rubin spent the weekend away from Charlottesville. “There was a lot of chatter that they were going to try and go burn synagogues,” he said, referring to the neo-Nazis who rallied on the Lawn and downtown on August 11–12, 2017.
He pointed his car toward home when he saw that the violence had escalated. Various local Jewish organizations, including the Brody Jewish Center at the University of Virginia, which he directs, were receiving alerts from authorities. The university’s president, Teresa A. Sullivan, called to say she had dispatched University Police to stand guard at the center.
That awful weekend eventually ended, but not so the danger. The rally’s organizers had promised to return. And many Jewish students living on the Lawn were afraid to display their mezuzahs, ritual objects that contain a prayer and mark Jewish homes. “Most Jewish homes have them on their front door,” Rubin said, “and there were students who were scared to put them up.”
Because so much coverage of the violence focused on anti-black racism, Rubin wasn’t sure whether the Heal Charlottesville Fund would make its resources available to the Jewish community. “We called,” he said, “and without hesitation—it was incredible—the Community Foundation said, ‘Yeah, of course!’”
The Brody Jewish Center received funds to help educate Jewish students about anti-Semitism. They brought together student leaders from across the University of Virginia “to have conversations and learn from each other and to think about how we can address some of the issues that were exposed during August 11th and 12th,” Rubin said.
And then there was the need for security.
“Look, most Jewish organizations, certainly in large cities, have security,” Rubin said. “There’s a restricted entrance to those spaces. They might have a security guard or someone working the front desk. That’s not something we’ve ever had to deal with.”
You want to provide protection, he said, “but you can’t have this be Fort Knox, right? Like, your job is to create an open and welcoming community for students.”
With Heal Fund money the Brody Jewish Center upgraded procedures for entering the building. There’s now a video and intercom system at the front door and external security cameras. The center also hired a security guard to work events.
“I think people have adjusted to it,” Rubin said, referring to the security. “People understand, unfortunately, it’s the world we live in.”