Police are investigating the desecration of a Torah scroll at Tau Kappa Epsilon’s on-campus house during a break in this weekend.
University President Thomas LeBlanc and student groups are condemning the vandalism as an act of antisemitism as the GW Police Department and the Metropolitan Police Department investigate the incident as a suspected hate crime. Members of TKE said they found hot sauce smeared over the kitchen counter and fire alarms ripped out of the walls, but the other religious texts owned by the fraternity were left unharmed.
“I want to be clear: I condemn all such acts of antisemitism and all forms of hatred, discrimination and bias in our community,” LeBlanc said in a statement Sunday night. “Any act of antisemitism is an attack on the entire GW community and cannot, and will not, be tolerated.”
Nov. 4, 2021 at 9:31 a.m.
SA leaders implore senate to expand Jewish representation
Student Association leaders urged the SA Senate to prioritize involving more Jewish students in the SA after a Torah was desecrated at a fraternity house last weekend during its meeting Monday.
Zachary Nosanchuck, the SA’s executive chief of staff, said the number of senators who are members of the Jewish community is not representative of the Jewish population at GW, and senators should prioritize Jewish student applications when considering senator nominations for vacancies. He said he was pleased to see many SA members – including President Brandon Hill and Vice President Kate Carpenter – attending the procession to Kogan Plaza Monday, held in response to the desecration of the Torah scroll in the TKE townhouse.
“There are two current senate vacancies it looks like, be prioritizing Jewish voices in those,” Nosanchuck said. “Talk about antisemitism, see what they think, because we need to bring more visuals to the table in order to talk about issues that are so serious like what happened on Saturday.”
-Henry Huvos and Sejal Govindarao
Nov. 4, 2021 at 9:31 a.m.
Jewish student organizations unite to process impact of Torah desecration
Members of the Jewish community on campus have grappled with emotional shock after a Torah scroll owned by Tau Kappa Epsilon was desecrated in the fraternity’s on-campus house this weekend during a reported break in.
Leaders from Jewish student organizations, including GW Hillel and GW for Israel, said they were “disheartened” and “shocked” by the incident, emphasizing the occurrence as a reminder of how antisemitism has persisted on campus and across the country in recent years. Students said they hope officials will take action to prevent hate crimes on campus with more antisemitism education that goes beyond recent statements of condemnation.
Ezra Meyer – the president of GW for Israel – said antisemitic incidents on campus have become “expected” in his three years at GW.
“We receive these platitude-filled condemnations or statements of condemnation whenever something happens, which as I said, are appreciated, but there’s clearly some sort of substantive follow up that is lacking,” he said. “If there weren’t, then these would have stopped happening. But I’ve been here for three years now, and it’s become routine at this point.”
He said the administrators must add education about antisemitism to the mandatory diversity and inclusion training that all students are required to complete, because the current training modules don’t spend “much time on antisemitism if any at all.”
Rose Kesselman, the co-president of the Jewish Student Association, said she was “heartbroken” to learn about the incident. She said although the incident was extremely upsetting, it did not surprise her because of GW’s history with antisemitic issues on campus.
“On our campus, it was hard to see, and I would not say it’s unbelievable, but things like this keep happening at our school,” she said. “So while it’s not totally hard to believe, it’s extremely upsetting.
Jessica Carr, the other co-president of the JSA, said while the incident was “extremely upsetting,” the GW community and other student organizations reached out to GW Hillel to stand in solidarity with the Jewish population on campus.
“It’s just really upsetting to me that someone within our community at GW would do such a thing, but it was very comforting to find the positive response from the GW community and all the outreach that we’ve gotten,” she said.
–Abby Kennedy and Lauren Sforza
Nov. 3, 2021 at 6:56 p.m.
Student reports mezuzah stolen, returned damaged
A Shenkman Hall resident said a mezuzah was stolen from her door and returned damaged this week.
Sophomore Emma Reese said a GW-themed mezuzah – a small scroll of parchment placed on a doorpost traditionally inscribed with Torah verses – was stolen from her door some time Sunday night. She said the mezuzah reappeared on her door with some damage Tuesday morning after she demanded its return in a Shenkman group chat.
Reese said a wire on the mezuzah was unwrapped and rewrapped onto it, had a torn bead moved from its glued position and appeared to show that someone tried to access the prayers inside. Reese said a hand on the mezuzah that normally points down was turned upwards and said she was “more sad than I am angry.”
“My grandmother was the CEO of a Jewish nonprofit, she got death threats all the time,” Reese said. “My mom – very Jewish – got death threats at her college too. So it just sucks knowing that I’m next in line for this kind of stuff.”
A University spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
The GW crime log shows an open case reported Tuesday with the charge “defacing or burning cross or religious symbol” at Shenkman Hall.
Reese said someone had been touching her mezuzah without permission since the beginning of the semester – she noticed someone had been straightening the mezuzah on her doorframe despite Jewish tradition to tilt it towards the door – but she has received an “outpouring” of support from Jewish and non-Jewish peers alike.
“I’m really glad that people are using this as a learning opportunity and as an opportunity to really put it out there that they’re here for us, which is not something we get often,” she said.
Nov. 3, 2021 at 11:10 a.m.
Greek life support for TKE grows after Torah desecration
Greek organizations’ support for Tau Kappa Epsilon is growing after the desecration of a Torah scroll at the fraternity’s on-campus townhouse last weekend.
The Panhellenic Association and the Interfraternity Council both condemned the vandalism and called for students to “stand in support” of TKE.
“There is no place for hate in our organization, on our campus, or in the wider George Washington University community,” Panhel’s statement reads.
Sigma Delta Tau also condemned the incident. University President Thomas LeBlanc condemned the vandalism as an act of antisemitism and said officials were increasing police patrols in the area.
“We pledge to work with TKE and University officials to hold the perpetrators of this despicable act accountable,” IFC’s statement reads.
Nov. 2, 2021 at 8:13 a.m.
Students denounce Torah desecration, call upon unity during campus procession
About 400 students processed through campus Monday after news spread about the desecration of a Torah scroll at Tau Kappa Epsilon’s on-campus house.
Students gathered in front of the TKE house on 22nd Street before visiting the houses of Jewish fraternity Zeta Beta Tau and Jewish sorority Alpha Epsilon Phi to hang a mezuzah, a small scroll of parchment placed on a doorpost with two biblical passages traditionally inscribed, on each chapter’s door during the procession. After passing through F and G Streets – which GW and Metropolitan Police Department officers closed off from traffic – the group arrived at Kogan Plaza to listen to speeches and a reading of the Torah.
Speakers and organizers of the event said they were moved by the “historic” turnout of students at the event – a sign of hope that GW is still a safe place for the Jewish community.
Rabbi Yudi Steiner, the executive director at Rohr Chabad Center, announced an initiative for Jewish students to hang mezuzahs on their doors across campus to demonstrate their Jewish pride. He said he hopes students can hang 100 mezuzahs by the end of the week.
“Overall message of the event was to respond to hate with love and respond to darkness with light,” he said. “There are endless opportunities for all GW students, Jewish and non Jewish, to make a proactive choice to be loving and to be proud of who they are, be they Jewish or any other faith or creed. Be proud of who you are, especially when negativity rears its ugly head.”
Junior Bennett Pittel, TKE’s social chair, said GWPD was initially “dismissive” of the act of vandalism when officers responded to TKE house, so members called the Metropolitan Police to also investigate the break-in.
“I was so upset to start the day,” Pittel said. “I really was upset and then to see hundreds of people out here, we read the Torah in front of everybody and put up those mezuzahs on those two Greek houses, this was a real coming together as a community, and it’s great.”
–Abby Kennedy, Lauren Sforza and Sejal Govindarao
Nov. 1, 2021 at 8:32 p.m.
Student Association’s top two leaders encourage students to attend solidarity rally
Student Association President Brandon Hill and Vice President Kate Carpenter condemned the vandalism at the Tau Kappa Epsilon townhouse on behalf of the SA’s executive branch Monday.
They said students with any who need support or assistance could reach out to SA members by attending their office hours or by accessing GW resources, like GW Hillel and the Division for Student Affairs. Hill and Carpenter also participated in a Torah procession and solidarity rally held Monday evening after encouraging students to attend in their weekly newsletter.
“We would like to make clear that no form of hatred against Jewish students is welcome on this campus, and GW should be a home for all,” they said.
Nov. 1, 2021 at 5:55 p.m.
GW College Democrats and Republicans condemn vandalism in joint statement
GW College Democrats and GW College Republicans released a joint statement Monday afternoon condemning the vandalism at the Tau Kappa Epsilon townhouse.
The statement said antisemitism is a recurring issue at the University and urged GW’s administrators to find and hold accountable the perpetrators of the vandalism.
“The issue of antisemitism has been repetitive and prominent on this campus, so it is important that we take a strong stance against it,” the message read. “It is past time for GW’s administration to hold anti-semites accountable for their actions.”
GW for Israel also released a statement Monday afternoon, calling the vandalism “horrific and unconscionable.” The group wrote that Jewish students at GW have been “routinely targeted” because of their faith, adding that the organization is a resource for students seeking community.
“Time and time again, we have witnessed evil manifested on this campus in the form of antisemitism,” the statement read. “Such acts of hate are antithetical to the community we strive to maintain at GW.”
Nov. 1, 2021 at 2:20 p.m.
Metropolitan Police Department investigating incident as suspected hate crime
The Metropolitan Police Department is investigating the incident as a suspected hate crime, according to a police report.
Chris Osborne, the president of TKE, had said Sunday that 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. But Osborne said other religious texts, which were all stored in the basement of TKE’s house, were left unharmed, but a bible was moved from its original place.
Nov. 1, 2021 at 2:20 p.m.
Officials increase police presence around Tau Kappa Epsilon house
University President Thomas LeBlanc said Monday that several staff members are staying in the Tau Kappa Epsilon house and officials are increasing police patrols in the area after a Torah scroll was desecrated over the weekend.
LeBlanc said in an email to the GW community that the GW Police Department is actively working with the Metropolitan Police Department to identify the perpetrators. Greek life and residence hall staff are providing assistance to students directly affected by the vandalism, he said.
“The desecration of the Torah scroll is a direct and serious act of hate and an attack on Judaism and the Jewish people,” LeBlanc said. “Any act of antisemitism is an attack on the entire GW community and cannot, and will not, be tolerated.”
LeBlanc said students with relevant information are asked to contact GWPD at 202-994-6111. He encouraged GW community members seeking support to utilize University resources, including the Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement and Counseling and Psychological Services.
“I am committed to providing all resources necessary to this investigation and to supporting our community,” he said. “During this difficult time, I trust that our students, faculty, staff and alumni will come together to support one another and to ensure that we continue the work of building the welcoming and inclusive University that our community has come to expect and deserves.”
Nov. 1, 2021 at 2:42 a.m.
Crime log: Student harassed with image of swastika on Mount Vernon Campus
A female student reported she was harassed in Hensley Hall when an image of a swastika was sent to her residence hall room on Oct. 19. The case remains open as of Sunday afternoon.