In the redemptive spirit of Chanukah, the eight-day Festival of Light that begins Wednesday night, members of the Chabad House Jewish Student Center at Indiana University Bloomington are responding to a recent act of vandalism with a collective message of freedom, respect, and cultural and religious tolerance.

Last Tuesday, IU senior Carl Corenblum turned up at the Chabad-Lubavitch center run by Rabbi Yehoshua and Zlata Chincholker for afternoon prayer services when he discovered a large rock that had been hurled through a center window, shards of shattered glass spread like tiny icicles across the entire sanctuary. It’s the third such incident to plague the Chabad House, most recently following a Chanukah-time window smashing last year. (The year before, vandals removed letters from the center’s front sign.)

“I was a little confused,” recounts Corenblum of the crime scene, “because generally things are pretty peaceful on campus. I was very shocked.”

Yehoshua Chincholker contacted the police. While a police spokesperson declined comment, others say that thus far, no suspects have been apprehended.

Chincholker, though, quickly turned to a proper response, wittily determining that the rock would serve as the perfect foundation stone for the Chabad House’s nine-foot tall Chanukah menorah at a lighting ceremony Sunday night.

“It’s a very strong stone,” explains Chincholker of the limestone rock, for which southern Indiana is famous. “The idea is to take this rock that was meant to intimidate and use it to illuminate. We’re going to show that family and community are each based on a bedrock of light and respect and tolerance for one another.”

“It encapsulates the Chabad teachings to turn the material into the spiritual,” remarks Corenblum. “In this case the material is a rock.”

The rock will be used as the base for the menorah’s shamash, a special candle used to kindle the others.

“The shamash is a source of light,” notes Chincholker, “and it will spread light to others.”

Students at the Chabad House have rallied in the wake of the vandalism, fundraising for the $2,000 menorah, prepping food, creating press packets and passing out promotional flyers.

“We want the lighting to be big,” says Chincholker. “It’s just so amazing how all the students have come together and intensified their volunteer time for us.”

Alex Groysman, IU graduate student and president of the Chabad House, credits its proverbial menu of Jewish-related services catering to the college crowd for generating such a dedicated and proactive reaction among its members.

“We do so much great work on campus,” Groysman proudly points out, citing the rock menorah as a stellar example. “Chabad comes out in many dark places, and it brings some light into all that darkness.”