NewsCovering Kentucky


Local Rabbi reacts to executive order

Posted at 2:49 PM, Dec 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-13 18:37:41-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Following multiple attacks against Jewish people, including a domestic terror attack at a Kosher grocery store in Jersey City, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that will make anti-Semitic acts punishable on college campuses and schools under the Civil Rights Act.

Rabbi Shlomo Litvin, director of Chabad of the Bluegrss, sat down with LEX 18's Claire Kopsky to talk about the emotion he felt when he read about the details of the shooting in Jersey City and how he hopes colleges across the country can help protect Jewish students from discrimination.

The suspect walked toward the Kosher market on Tuesday with long guns drawn. The effects were immediately felt by those in the community who were just going about their lives.

"This might sound different than a synagogue to many people, having a Kosher grocery store is a center of Jewish life. And the woman that was killed, came there to the grocery store, to make Kosher available to people as the Jersey City Community was growing," Litvin explained.

Investigators are now looking at this shooting as a hate crime, but Rabbi Litvin says it doesn't change much for the Jewish community.

"The answer to aggression can never be closing the door, and it has to be opening both your doors and your hearts while balancing security as we do, however, to be open to be there, and to provide for the community," said Litvin.

Litvin notes that over the past five years, the Jewish Center at the University of Kentucky had been vanadalized. Multiple students, Litvin says, had been told to take their yarmulkes off at school. He says another student reported having a swastika carved in his dorm room door. He is hopeful that the act will make situations like this more rare.

"You can't stop every violent act, what you can do is stop the environment that allows that to take place," explained Litvin.

Stopping the environment is what Rabbi Litvin and other prominent Jewish leaders across the country say they feel President Trump is trying to do through the executive order he announced Wednesday.

That order makes anti-Semitic acts more easily reprimanded by enforcing anti-discrimination laws vigorously at schools and on college campuses.

"If a university would say we're not accepting the student, because of their ethnicity, the Civil Rights Act could step in," Rabbi Litvin explained to LEX 18, "Technically University were to say we're not accepting the student because they're Jewish. The Title XI Civil Rights Act doesn't have any way to protect that student before yesterday. Because it's not because of color, is not because of race, is not because of nationality."

Despite the anxiety situations like these can bring to a religious community, Rabbi Litvin was quick to invite the public to stand with them at an upcoming Hanukkah event.

"A great way people in the community can be an ally is by participating in the community menorah lighting, Dec. 22 at 5 p.m. the Mayor's office," Litvin said.