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Vandals desecrate Torah scroll at George Washington University fraternity

Sacred item torn and covered with detergent; head of Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter says incident was antisemitic hate crime; college condemns act

An undated image of the George Washington University campus in Washington, DC. (screen capture: YouTube)
An undated image of the George Washington University campus in Washington, DC. (screen capture: YouTube)

Vandals broke into a fraternity house in George Washington University in Washington, DC, and desecrated a Torah scroll, tearing it apart and covering it with detergent, the Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter said.

“Our entire chapter is outraged and saddened by this blatant act of antisemitism and violence against our brothers,” the fraternity said in a Sunday statement.

The fraternity, which has a significant Jewish membership, said it was cooperating with university officials and the Anti-Defamation League to investigate the incident, which happened on Saturday night and discovered the next morning.

Chapter president Chris Osborne told CNN that house members were away at the time of the break-in.

“We believe it was an act of antisemitism,” Osborne told the station. “There was a Christian Bible and a Jewish Torah in the room, and only the Jewish Torah was vandalized. I believe it was a hate crime.”

Osborne said about a quarter of the TKE fraternity chapter is Jewish.

George Washington University president Thomas LeBlanc said in a statement the incident was “deeply disturbing” and that he was “appalled by the antisemitic vandalism that occurred at the TKE fraternity house, especially the desecration of the Torah scroll.”

He said university police are working with the DC police force to find the perpetrators.

“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. “Any act of antisemitism is an attack on the entire GW community and cannot, and will not, be tolerated.”

The local branch of the Anti-Defamation League tweeted a photo of the damaged Torah scroll and said it was “very disturbed to learn about this hateful incident that took place overnight at the TKE fraternity house on GWU’s campus.”

“We’ve spoken with students and reached out to campus PD. We expect a full and rapid investigation,” the ADL wrote.

In a tweet, the Jewish on Campus activism group called on the university to condemn and investigate the incident.

The American Jewish Committee said in a statement it was “appalled by the vandalization of a Jewish fraternity house… which included the desecration of sacred Jewish texts.

“We call on law enforcement and the GWU administration to swiftly identify and apprehend those responsible for this horrific act of antisemitism.”

A survey published last week found that a third of US Jewish college students said they had experienced antisemitism in the past year.

The survey, conducted jointly by Hillel and the Anti-Defamation League, suggested that the majority of Jewish students at American colleges feel safe and supported on campus — but that a significant minority have experienced antisemitism or obscured their Jewish identity out of fear of antisemitism.

JTA contributed to this report.

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