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‘It was disheartening’: Stolen flags spark fear in Jewish community at Virginia Tech

Leaders believe it is related to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East

One local Jewish organization believes the rising tension is having an impact here in our area.

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech’s largest Jewish organization has been the target of vandalism for the second time in a year.

Leaders with Hillel at Virginia Tech believe it may be directly caused by the current conflict in the Middle East.

The organization has been a home away from home for the university’s Jewish population for decades.

“There’s been, you know, a few instances where students are being criticized directly, you know, within the campus and so we’ve been a resource for them,” Executive Director Hillel at Virginia Tech Susan Kurtz said.

The organization placed flags from different countries across the Middle East as an act of unity, but when its executive director realized two were missing over the weekend, she got the Blacksburg Police Department involved.

“It was disheartening when we saw that two of the flags were missing from the flag poles. We made the assumption that was a criticism or a statement about what was happening in the Middle East,” Kurtz said.

The vandalism has caused students some stress.

“It really did create fear for the students, for the community members, and we took it as really a negative thing for all of us,” Kurtz said.

Since the vandalism happened, Hillel at Virginia Tech has been hosting conversations for Jewish students to come and talk about their feelings since the conflict started.

“We believe that more people informed, the better they can make their own educated decisions, as well as assumptions into any type of conversation they may have,” Assistant Director Hillel at Virginia Grant Bigman said.

The organization is installing more security in hopes of preventing vandalism in the past, but even as the school year ends Hillel at Virginia Tech plans to continue to support its students and educate the community.

“It’s crazy how just one little act of taking a flag, and people don’t always realize the repercussions or the assumptions or effect that it could have on other marginalized or minority groups,” Kurtz said.

For more information on Hillel at Virginia Tech, you can visit its website here.


About the Author:

Annie Schroeder joined the 10 News team as a reporter in June 2020 and is no stranger to Southwest Virginia.