The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office is investigating a prank perpetrated on a Jewish fraternity house on Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus during a Yom HaShoah program as a bias incident. The university community and administration have widely condemned the building being “egged,” an apparently anti-Semitic act.
There were no eyewitnesses. Rutgers police, which is investigating, confirmed there is no security footage of the vandalism at the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) fraternity house on Sicard Street.
The incident occurred during a 24-hour reading of the names of Holocaust victims and was first reported in the student newspaper, the Daily Targum. It drew a swift response from other students and university officials.
“All members of our campus community deserve to learn and work in an environment in which they feel fully safe, valued and respected, free from anti-Semitism, and all other forms of hate and discrimination,” said Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy in a statement placed on the university’s social media and online platforms in which he noted the university was “deeply dismayed” about the incident and the harm it caused Jewish students.
In his statement, Molloy said the incident underscored the need for the university to implement additional education and awareness programs to combat anti-Semitism. Toward that end, the Office of the Senior Vice President for Equity has started an outreach program to Jewish students and is also distributing resources to the general student body to counter anti-Semitism.
President Nicholas Labelle and Vice President Arielle Dublin of the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA), the student governing body for the New Brunswick-Piscataway campus, said said in a statement: “We, as a beloved community, must be vigilant in our condemnation of such heinous acts, continue to hold those who perpetrate such hate accountable and work to develop a culture where such actions never occur.”
AEPi member Elan Boyarsky was not present at the time of the incident, but told The Jewish Link that several members were reading in front of the fraternity house about 12:15 a.m. when the eggs were thrown at the side of the building; those members did not see the perpetrators. “It is terrible to see such blatant anti-Semitism at Rutgers,” said the Cherry Hill resident, who is also president of Rutgers Jewish Xperience, another student organization on the New Brunswick campus.
“It is so sad to know there are people who are so anti-Semitic,” he added. “Vandalism on any day is bad, but on Yom HaShoah it is anti-Semitism.” Boyarsky said there are plans among student Jewish leaders to meet with Molloy “to make sure this does not happen again on campus.”
Rutgers Hillel Executive Director Andrew Getraer told The Jewish Link: “Obviously, when an incident like this occurs on a sensitive day like Yom HaShoah at a Jewish building, it is something to be extremely concerned about. We have been in touch with the brothers at AEPi and offered our support, and they have been in touch with us.”
However, Getraer said the decisiveness with which law enforcement and Molloy, representing the university, have dealt with the incident, has made him confident they recognize its seriousness. “It is very important that the issue of anti-Semitism is made available to the larger community because only by being together can we combat the scourge of anti-Semitism,” he said.
Rutgers Chabad Executive Director Rabbi Yosef Carlebach said: “In a sense I am shocked, and in a sense I am not shocked, because the world has gotten crazy. The extremes on all sides seem to be running the show and there is no middle ground.” He called Molloy “a friend of the Jewish people.”
As Chabad leader on campus for more than 40 years, Rabbi Carlebach stressed that that “this is not a university of anti-Semitism. Yes, there is a percentage like everywhere else, but Rutgers is not a hotbed of anti-Semitism,” he said. “The number one problem is ignorance.”
Rabbi Carlebach, a state police chaplain, said he gives classes to local, county and state law enforcement and speaks regularly in public schools and is “astounded” by the level of ignorance about the number of Jews worldwide and those murdered in the Holocaust.
Likewise, Michael Cohen, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s (SWC) eastern regional director, wrote to The Jewish Link that he and National Campus Outreach Coordinator Carly Korman Schlakman are in active conversations with Jewish leaders on campus and have reached out to police to ensure the incident continues to be taken with the level of seriousness it deserves.
Cohen said SWC was ”outraged” over the attack, adding, “The Simon Wiesenthal Center has a long history of working with Rutgers University, campus Jewish leadership, and with AEPi, on a local and national level.”
Molloy assured the Jewish community that the university would remain in close contact “to ensure your voices and perspectives are reflected in our path forward,” adding, “Again, I express my sincere support for our Jewish students, faculty and staff, and my full commitment to ensuring that all members of our community feel a sense of belonging here at Rutgers-New Brunswick.”
A GoFundMe page started by AEPi in the aftermath of the attack to raise $500 for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum had raised $2,297 as of April 19, including a $500 donation from John Farmer, director of Rutgers University’s Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience, whose mission is to protect vulnerable communities, particularly faith-based ones.
“The Brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi at Rutgers University are grateful for the tremendous support we have received from the campus and area Jewish community as well as AEPi International,” according to a statement sent from the fraternity’s national headquarters. “We are very thankful for the strong statement and stand against anti-Semitism that we have seen from our university administration.”
By Debra Rubin