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Hillel responds to anti-Semitism by turning 'hate into love'

Two weeks ago Logan Goddard, a former Miami University student, requested money from a Miami University student for a "plane ticket to auschwitz concentration camp" and a "toasted bagel (gas chamber jews)." In response, Hillel, an organization for Jewish students, is giving students money to donate to anti-hate charities.

Goddard requested the Venmo transactions on Wednesday, May 8, but the former first-year hasn't been enrolled since the end of April said Director of University News and Communications Claire Wagner. The university did not explain why Goddard dropped out of school and only affirmed that his anti-Semitic remarks were still directed towards a current Miami student. That student, the recipient of Goddard's messages, did not respond to requests for comment.

Dean of Students Kimberly Moore said that, while she cannot provide specific details, she is confident the university has done everything in its power to confront the situation and pursue action.

"It's incredibly disheartening when you see members of your community engaging in that behavior as well as individuals being deeply affected by that," Moore said. "It's appalling. It's disgusting, and it shouldn't be tolerated."

Hillel heard about the incident and wanted to combat the anti-Semitic message. They decided to spread a call to action across the Miami community, specifically saying anyone could Venmo request $1 with the message: "This money turns hate into love."

Students who received that dollar were encouraged, in turn, to give the money to an anti-hate charity.

After about a week, Hillel reached its cap of almost 200 requests.

Incoming Hillel president Jonathan Maxwell said the organization got this idea from the Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, more commonly known as the Rebbe. In the late 1980s, the Rebbe would stand on the streets of New York City and give people a dollar to donate to a charity of their choice.

Hillel decided to modernize Rebbe's method by using Venmo.

"It's using that same platform that he used to spread hate to do the opposite," Maxwell said. "We wanted to do something that makes a positive of a bad situation."

Instead of merely asking for donations, this involves students in the process by requiring them to find a charity and go to its website to donate. While Maxwell acknowledges that there is no way to guarantee that all students will actually donate the money they receive from Hillel, he said he believes the majority will.

"We're trusting that there are more good people than bad people in the world," Maxwell said.

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Maxwell didn't want to just condemn anti-Semitism, so he helped create an opportunity where students could take action and affect change.

"We've realized that to a certain extent we can't have massive change immediately within the university," Maxwell said. "We're not gonna get rid of every single -- even beyond anti-Semitism -- every single racist or homophobe, but what we can do is identify who good people are and just empower them to do more good things."

Even though Hillel isn't accepting additional Venmo requests, students can donate directly to the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other anti-hate groups.