Hundreds march at GW against Jew-hatred


Chanting “Am Yisrael Chai” — the Jewish people live — hundreds of students at George Washington University marched from the building that houses the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity to the center of campus to stand against anti-Semitism.

The “Torah Procession and Solidarity Rally” was a response to the desecration of a paper Torah on Saturday night at Tau Kappa Epsilon’s on-campus housing near the White House.

“[Our] building was broken into, vandalized and Jewish texts were desecrated,” posted the fraternity. “Our entire chapter is outraged and saddened by this blatant act of anti-Semitism and violence against our brothers. We are cooperating with university officials and the ADL.”

According to a report in the school newspaper, The Hatchett, “the Torah scroll was one of several religious texts that belongs to the chapter, which usually uses them to swear in new members of the fraternity.”

The rally turnout was “overwhelming and full of love,” said Rabbi Yudi Steiner, director of the Rohr Chabad at GW.

Rabbi Steiner spent time with members of the fraternity prior to the rally, saying that some students were visibly shaken by what had happened.

“I told them to channel this experience into a good one. Our response will determine the end of the story. Someone came and tried to make Jewish students feel attacked — our response was to do the opposite, to parade through the streets and read the Torah aloud.”

It was a message that he shared throughout the afternoon.

Rabbi Steiner announced a new initiative to put up mezuzahs, which proclaims G-d’s protection, on every doorpost.

Outside of the Jewish fraternity and sorority houses — Zeta Beta Tau and Alpha Epsilon Pi — the crowd watched as mezuzahs were affixed to the front doors of the buildings. They also listened as a part of this week’s Torah reading was recited at Kogan Plaza on campus.

“I have devoted years of my life to fighting anti-Semitism, following in the footsteps of my grandmother who survived the Holocaust. I am exhausted. But I am not a Jew with trembling knees,” said one of many GW students who posted about the desecration of the Torah replica on social media.

Speaking to The Hatchet, TKE president Chris Osborne said, “I think the message is clear that there’s broad support, [and] that changes need to be made on this campus for inclusivity and making people feel like they can practice their religion and creed on this campus.”

TKE at GW has a sizeable Jewish membership.

Also on Monday afternoon, the university’s president, Thomas LeBlanc, sent out a letter to the greater university community calling the desecration a “direct and serious act of hate.” He added that police have increased patrols in the area of the fraternity, and that local law enforcement is continuing to investigate.

“The safety and well-being of our community has been and will remain our foremost priority,” LeBlanc said in his letter. “I recognize that members of our community are feeling less safe on our campus after this incident, and we are taking every action to rebuild a sense of trust and safety.”