UCLA’s Jewish leaders and students gathered by the doorway of the USAC President’s office last Thursday to watch Rabbi Dovid Gurevich, leader of UCLA’s Chabad on Campus, inaugurate a new mezuzah.
The previous mezuzah was torn down. According to USAC president, Arielle Mokhtarzadeh, she was walking into her office for a meeting Jan. 15 when she saw that the mezuzah had been stolen from her office entryway. Former USAC president, Danny Siegel experienced a similar situation in 2017. Mokhtarzadeh said that she was in such shock that she could barely speak as she sat down for her meeting. She was shaking. Then she spread word about what happened via Facebook posts and mass emails.
A plan was made to have a new mezuzah installed the Thursday that was to follow. Rabbi Gurevich made the new mezuzah himself, complete with the phrase “Am Yisrael Chai” painted on it and a UCLA insignia.
For some, the mezuzah on Mokhtarzadeh’s door was a symbol of acceptance and peace for Jewish students.
“I will never forget how seeing the mezuzah on Arielle’s door made me feel when I first transferred to campus; I felt like my Jewish identity was being expressed by people in a position of power, and it made me feel much safer to be a student at UCLA,” junior psychology major Michael Dayan said.
The speakers at the re-dedication, Mokhtarzadeh, Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin — who heads West Coast Chabad — and Rabbi Gurevich all related that the stripping of the mezuzah is not so much of a setback as it is an opportunity to rise above negativity and show how strong the Jewish community is.
“We are never going to let this happen again. Never, ever. We are strong, is that right?” Rabbi Cunin said. His words were met with teary-eyed cheers.
Similarly sophomore political science and human biology and society double-major, Victoria Solkovits, said after the ceremony, “Our [Jewish] community at UCLA is so strong that I know I can be resilient in instances like these. I think the Jewish community is always very strong. It just shows how connected we all are, which is really cool to see.”
Rabbi Gurevich summed up the aftermath in one sentence: “You can steal a mezuzah, but you cannot steal God. You cannot steal the resilience of the Jewish people”.