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October 22, 2023

Antisemitic graffiti on Penn's campus under investigation amid recent uptick in reported hate crimes

A spray-painted tag saying 'The Jews R Nazis' was discovered on a vacant building near a Jewish fraternity at 40th and Walnut streets on Friday night

Investigations Hate Crime
University-of-Pennsylvania-antisemitic-graffiti.jpg THOM CARROLL/for PhillyVoice

Campus police at the University of Pennsylvania are investigating a potential hate crime after antisemitic graffiti was discovered on a vacant building next to a Jewish fraternity at 40th and Walnut streets last Friday night.

Police are investigating a potential hate crime after an antisemitic graffiti tag was discovered on a vacant building near a Jewish fraternity house on the University of Pennsylvania's campus on Friday night. 

The spray-painted graffiti tag reading "The Jews R Nazis" was found on a vacant building next door to the university's fraternity chapter house for Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), a 110-year-old Jewish fraternity with 146 active chapters worldwide. The graffiti was discovered around 11:30 p.m. on Friday by members of AEPi, who then covered it with duct tape and reported it to Penn's Division of Public Safety, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian.

Penn campus public safety officials said in a statement that they are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime and "are providing support to the reporting parties."

The vacant property on which the graffiti was found is owned by Campus Apartments, which as the Daily Pennsylvanian report pointed out, is owned Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance chairperson David Adelman. It is not known whether Friday's act of vandalism was intended to target the AEPi or Campus Apartments directly. 

The incident occurred amid a nationwide increase in alleged hate crimes and threats against individuals of Jewish, Muslim and Arab descent coinciding with a violent flare-up in the longtime conflict between Israel and the Palestinians this month. 

Since the deadly surprise attacks on Israeli territory by Hamas militants on Oct. 7 killed 1,400 Israelis and sparked a heavy-handed military response against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the FBI has reported an increase in threats directed at people and institutions within the Jewish and Muslim communities in the United States, the agency told reporters last week. 

Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League said last week that it had tracked over 100 antisemitic incidents in the U.S. since the Oct. 7 attacks. Muslim advocacy organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations have reported an uptick in hateful threats and actions directed as against Arab and Muslim individuals since the latest phase of the war between Israel and Hamas began. 

Last Wednesday, a mosque in Point Breeze was reportedly vandalized with Islamophobic graffiti, sparking calls for a hate crime investigation from the local chapter of CAIR. 

The University of Pennsylvania recently found itself at the center of controversy stemming from its leadership's response to recent events in Israel, as well as its handling of a controversial Palestinian literature festival that was hosted on Penn's campus in September.