On Friday night, Rachel Kucharczuk’s routine trip to the grocery store was disrupted by the discovery of anti-Semitic comments smeared on the front and back of her car.
“I was in bed with the flu all day and I came out to my car to get some ginger ale. I got into the front seat of my car and my car was backed into my driveway. My driveway is between my fence and my house and it was backed in all the way, so I sat in my front seat and I warmed up my car and saw four swastikas on my windshield,” she said. “I went to the grocery store and went to my trunk to get my reusable grocery bags and on the back of my thing I see four swastikas and the words ‘Dirty Jew’ written on the back.”
Kucharczuk, ArtSci ’09, said she reported the incident immediately to Kingston police and Campus Security after discovering the comments on her vehicle.
“Since Friday night, I contacted the police immediately and reported a case with the Kingston police and they have deemed it a ‘hate crime.’ I filed a complaint with Campus Security, I sent Leora Jackson, the Rector, an e-mail and Queen’s Hillel has been notified.”
Kucharczuk said she has also notified the Canadian Jewish Congress and the United Jewish Appeal about the incident.
“Other Canadian Jewish organizations will be notified of this situation. I have been fortunate to have grown up in Toronto, a place that if this were to happen it would have made national news because it’s not tolerated where I’m from,” she said. “I’ve been lucky enough to have grown up with a lot of people who advocate upon Jews and Jewish rights and I happen to know a lot of them, which is helping to facilitate this.”
Kucharczuk said this is the first time she has been victimized during her time at Queen’sfor her religious beliefs.
“The way that it was done on my car, I really don’t feel that it is a random thing. I have been really uneasy. I’ve been here for four years and I’ve never faced anything like this.”
Kucharczuk said this incident has caused her to feel alienated from Queen’s.
“I’m now sending in my grad school applications and I’m not sending any to Queen’s. I will not. After this, it’s like, ‘Okay, I’m graduating in six months and now I’m leaving,’ I felt before this weekend that Kingston and Queen’s was my home away from home. Now I feel that I’m just a student attending this university and I go back to my home in Toronto.”
Rector Leora Jackson said Queen’s should be a place of education not discrimination.
“What happened to Rachel is not okay. This shouldn’t be a place where you walk out to your car and find that someone has smeared ‘Dirty Jew’ on it or where you’re walking down the street and someone yells a slur at you,” she said, adding that she herself has faced anti-Semitism on campus.
“I was at the QP and someone wasn’t finishing their beer and so I said ‘Are you going to finish your beer?’ and they said ‘No I just don’t want anymore.’ My response was ‘I just hate seeing things go to waste’ and the boy said ‘What are you, a Jew?’ I think that the fact that I was Jewish must have been immediately obvious because of the look on my face and my reaction.”
Jackson said the issue of racism on campus has come to the forefront this year.
“I think that over the last two and a half months here, there have been so many repeated public incidents that have received publicity. I guess thanks to the Journal and also thanks to student groups who are working to publicize these issues, it’s becoming impossible for us to stick our heads in the sand and people are being forced to wake up and take notice. I think it’s become impossible to ignore that the safety of the community is being challenged.”
Jackson said her position as Rector will allow for her to address the issue of racism in her December report to the University’s Board of Trustees.
“As much as our student community has been sparked into action, most members of the Board are not at Queen’s at a day to day basis. They don’t know what’s happening or they haven’t heard what’s happening, but the vast majority were students here and they can understand when they hear about incidents like these,” she said. “As trustees of the University they are also entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the University’s reputation and the reputation of us being a welcoming and inclusive community.”
Principal Tom Williams declined to comment on the issue.
Queen’s Hillel President Joshua Zelikovitz said he was shocked to hear about the vandalism because the Jewish community and the Kingston and Queen’s communities have typically had a strong relationship.
“Queen’s actually has a very great record in being welcoming to Jews. Decades ago a lot of Canadian universities had strict quotas on how many Jews were allowed in. Queen’s was one of the few schools that opened its doors to Jews.”
Zelikovitz said Hillel is committed to addressing all acts of discrimination on campus.
“Absolutely we condemn all acts of anti-Semitism, hatred of any kind. One of our explicit mandates is to fight anti-Semitism. We also have a mandate that is beyond that, which is the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam. Tikkun Olam means ‘to heal the world’ and a big part of that is fighting hatred and discrimination of all kinds, aside from our opposition of these kind of acts of anti-Semitism, we’ve been strongly supportive of QUMSA in their efforts to combat Islamophobia.”
Zelikovitz said the incident has not changed his feelings towards the University.
“While it was shocking, I have a lot of confidence in the Queen’s community as a whole and that I think it’s generally a very positive space, a very safe space and my feeling is that it’s still a very safe space.”