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November 1, 2021 2:16 pm
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Outcry Over Desecration of Torah Scroll in ‘Disturbing’ Vandalism at George Washington University Fraternity

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The George Washington University President’s Office. Photo: Difference engine / Wikimedia Commons

The desecration of a Torah scroll at a George Washington University fraternity drew widespread condemnation by the campus community, local officials and national Jewish groups on Monday, as Washington, DC police continued an investigation.

“Tau Kappa Epsilon is disappointed, frustrated, and sickened by the crime and hate shown to our Alpha-Pi Chapter at George Washington University during a break-in over the weekend,” a statement from the fraternity said Monday. “This attack on Greek Life and display of antisemitism has no place in our society.”

The fraternity commented on the break-in Sunday night in an Instagram post, calling it a “blatant act of antisemitism and violence against our brothers.” Photographs of the damage published by The Hatchet student newspaper showed cabinets, doors and walls sprayed with hot sauce, and the Torah scroll ripped apart and soaked in a blue liquid, which the fraternity’s president said was laundry detergent.

“Jewish brothers and non-Jewish brothers are just, in general angry and upset that this would happen, that our house would be broken into,” GWE Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) President Chris Osborne told the student outlet.

GW President Thomas LeBlanc confirmed in a statement Sunday that campus police and the DC Metropolitan Police Department were working to apprehend those behind the incident.

“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 of 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.”

Washington, DC attorney general Karl Racine also condemned the incident Monday, calling it “unacceptable and contrary to the values of the District.”

Chabad GW director Levi Shemtov told the Washington Post that the Torah was a ceremonial paper copy, rather than the traditional parchment scroll used in synagogue services, though he emphasized that it was still a holy object and condemned its desecration.

Posting on Instagram, Hillel at GW said, “The Torah is the foundation of the Jewish faith, and it’s desecration is an antisemitic act of disrespect toward the Jewish community on campus. As always, we will continue to work in partnership with the GW administration.”

The vandalism drew outcry from national Jewish groups, including the heads of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who called it “a flagrant act of antisemitism.”

“We cannot allow the targeting and harassment of Jewish students to go unrecognized,” said Conference Chair Dianne Lob, CEO William Daroff and Vice Chair Malcolm Hoenlein. “Jewish students deserve to feel safe. Hate and antisemitism have no place on college campuses.”

Said the Anti-Defamation League on Twitter, “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 & reached out to campus PD. We expect a full & rapid investigation.”

TKE and Chabad at GW announced a “Torah procession and solidarity rally” planned for Monday evening, along with other Jewish campus groups and fraternities, to include a public reading from the Torah.

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