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Jewish fraternity at New Jersey’s Rutgers University reports antisemitic harassment

Protesters from pro-Palestinian rally shouted antisemitic rhetoric and spat at members; in another incident, assailants threw eggs during Holocaust commemorations

Rutgers University-Camden in Camden, NJ, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Rutgers University-Camden in Camden, NJ, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A historically Jewish fraternity at Rutgers University, New Jersey, has been the target of multiple cases of antisemitic harassment this week, prompting the school to announce it would be increasing security on campus.

Authorities said the university’s AEPi house was first targeted on Friday when protestors exiting a rally for Students for Justice in Palestine, a pro-Palestinian university activist group, went to the house and shouted antisemitic rhetoric and spat at the brothers.

Rutgers Hillel Interim Executive Director Rabbi Esther Reed told local media that a group leaving the rally drove by the fraternity afterward and yelled phrases including “terrorist” and “baby killers.” The rally was called “Defend Al-Aqsa, Defend Palestine,” a reference to the Muslim worship site in Jerusalem that has been the site of violent clashes between Israelis and Arabs in recent weeks.

Another incident occurred Monday evening, when unidentified assailants threw eggs at the frat house as the brothers were commemorating Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, by reading out the names of Holocaust victims over a 24-hour period. It was the second year in a row in which eggs were thrown at the house during the name-reading event, according to Reed.

The fraternity’s brothers reported both events to campus police. They were also amplified by online antisemitism watchdog groups.

“We understand and are sensitive to the concerns of those who were targeted, and stand by our Jewish students, faculty and staff,” Rutgers Chancellor-Provost Francine Conway wrote in a statement sent to the entire school. “Harassment based on religious belief, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or for any reason, is antithetical to our values at Rutgers University.”

Rutgers Hillel condemned the incidents and said they did not believe the perpetrators were students. The school’s AEPi president Adam Kaufman, a junior, told a local outlet that the incidents were “an example of how the Jews as a community do not feel safe.”

In a statement Wednesday, Rutgers SJP said that none of the individuals who antagonized the AEPi brothers following the rally were Rutgers students or formal members of their group, and that claims to the contrary were “entirely false and baseless.”

The group also claimed that it had obtained “video footage which suggests that it was members of AEPi who approached the individuals who attended our rally with slurs, Islamophobic rhetoric, and attempts to provoke physical altercation.”

SJP had not shared the video footage online as of Friday, and the group did not immediately respond to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency request regarding the footage. But its statement said that it had shared the footage with university police and added that it would be consulting with the legal advocacy group Palestine Legal and the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Antisemitism at Rutgers, a school in which an estimated 15% of the student body is Jewish, has been a hot topic for years. Last May, the school’s chancellor, Christopher Molloy, issued a statement condemning antisemitism on campus — only to apologize for that statement after pushback from the school’s SJP chapter.

The former longtime director of the school’s Hillel, Andrew Getraer, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency upon his retirement last year that he believed left-wing antisemitism on campus, spurred by anti-Zionist activity, was on the rise.

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