(November 1, 2021 / JNS) Chabad at George Washington University will join with members of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity and others on Monday at 5 p.m. for a “Torah procession and solidarity rally” after the fraternity house was vandalized and a paper replica of a Torah was destroyed in an incident students are calling a “blatant act of anti-Semitism.”
The vandalism occurred on Saturday night at the on-campus housing for the Tau Kappa Epsilon, a fraternity with a number of Jewish students as members.
“This weekend the on-campus house of the Alpha-Pi Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon was broken into, vandalized and Jewish texts were desecrated,” posted the fraternity. “Our entire chapter is outraged and saddened by this blatant act of anti-Semitism and violence against our brothers. We are cooperating with university officials and the ADL.”
According to a report in the school newspaper, “the Torah scroll was one of several religious texts that belongs to the chapter, which usually uses them to swear in new members of the fraternity.” It went on to say that other religious texts were left undisturbed, though a bible was moved from one place to another.
In a statement, president of the university Thomas LeBlanc said he is “appalled by the anti-Semitic vandalism that occurred at the TKE fraternity house, especially the desecration of the Torah scroll. … I want to be clear: I condemn all such acts of anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred, discrimination and bias in our community. Any act of anti-Semitism is an attack on the entire GW community and cannot, and will not, be tolerated.”
“The safety and well-being of our students and all members of our community remains our foremost priority, and the university is providing all resources necessary to the investigation and to support our community,” he added.
The incident comes just days after a release of a report on anti-Semitism on campus by Hillel International and the Anti-Defamation League which found 32 percent of Jewish college students were targeted in anti-Semitic incidents.
Speaking about the rally to JNS, Rabbi Yudi Steiner, director of the Rohr Chabad Center at GW, said “it’s not an anti-Semitic campus. Anti-Semitism is a problem all over the country, including in Washington, D.C., that needs to be taken with the proper gravity. What I’m hoping to do today is lead by example and model how I think the Jewish response, from Jewish students especially, should be, and that is what we will talk about the rally.”
Representatives of Hillel at GW took to social media to let students know that time was being set aside at Hillel on Monday afternoon for people to “visit, connect and talk through any questions regarding the incident.”
“The Torah is the foundation of the Jewish faith, and its desecration is an anti-Semitic act of disrespect toward the Jewish community on campus,” wrote Adena Kirstein, Hillel’s executive director, along with student co-presidents Jessica Carr and Rose Kesselman. “As always, we will work in partnership with the GW administration to ensure that this incident is investigated and to make certain our campus climate is one where diversity and difference are celebrated.”
Initially, there was some misreporting indicating that an actual kosher Torah scroll was desecrated. It was, in actuality, a paper replica; however, Jewish leaders say that doesn’t take away from the impact on the Jewish student community.