Mezuzah Reported Vandalized at George Washington University, Days After Fraternity Torah Desecrated
A George Washington University sophomore said her mezuzah had been taken from her door and tampered with before being returned Tuesday, days after a Torah belonging to a fraternity was desecrated, drawing a national outcry.
The GW Hatchet student paper reported that the mezuzah had been stolen Sunday and discovered by the student Tuesday morning — fastened back to her door with damage suggesting the thief had attempted to break it open and access the prayer scroll inside.
The GW-themed mezuzah was returned after sophomore Emma Reese reported its theft to a group chat for her residence hall.
“My grandmother was the CEO of a Jewish nonprofit, she got death threats all the time,” she told the outlet yesterday. “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.”
On Sunday, a paper Torah scroll belonging to the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity was found ripped apart and soaked in blue laundry detergent after a break-in, an incident condemned by national Jewish groups and local authorities.
In response, some 400 Jewish and non-Jewish students marched through George Washington University and Washington DC on Monday. The “Torah procession” began at the Tau Kappa Epsilon house and continued through the neighborhoods of Jewish fraternity Zeta Beta Tau and Jewish sorority Alpha Epsilon Phi, with each receiving a mezuzah on the doors of their houses.
Arriving in Kogan Plaza after marching through F Street and G Street, which were closed off by the Metropolitan Police Department, demonstrators listened to a reading from the Torah and several speeches from the event’s organizers.
“[The] overall message of the event was to respond to hate with love and respond to darkness with light,” said Chabad at GWU Rabbi Yudi Steiner on Monday, according to the Hatchet. “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.”
A call from Steiner for Jewish students to hang mezuzahs on their doors drew a bizarre, hateful threat from one member of the public, according to an email exchange shared by the Jewish on Campus Twitter account, which collects reports of antisemitism from students.
“Hammering Mezuzahs on doors is the equivalent of hammering swastikas,” ranted a person who identified herself as Lisa Brewer of San Clemente, California. “People, students, decent people in general are sick of Jewish dominance and the murderous racism of The Jewish State, slaughtering children with impunity,” said the note emailed to Steiner, who is Executive Director of the Rohr Chabad Center at GWU.
Responded Steiner, “Thank you for reminding me why I keep affixing more Mezuzot and singing Am Yisrael Chai as loud as ever. I’m sorry that my Jewish identity and pride makes you so mad. Please know that every attack on our People will be met with more Mezuzot and more proud Jews.”
Responding to recent events, members of the George Washington University Student Association Senate (SA) this week proposed prioritizing Jewish students’ applications for nomination to two soon-to-be vacant seats, arguing that the number of Jewish senators is low relative to their percentage of the student body.
The SA Executive Chief of Staff, who proposed the measure, urged that the body “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.”