Anti-Semitism rears ugly head on UCF, Emory campuses
What does UCF have in common with Emory University and University of Oregon? They have all recently experienced anti-Semitism.
In April at UCF, Michelle Feldman, a female Jewish student, found swastikas carved into the walls of her apartment at University House. And before this incident, she had her mezuzah, a decoration Jewish people hang on their door frame with a prayer inside, broken in half and lying on the floor with the prayer missing.
"I feel as if this was a wake-up call that anti-Semitism still occurs in 2014 and all over the wold," she said.
This incident happened on the eve of Yom HaShoah, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Following the incident, University House ramped up security measures and offered a $500 award for informaiton leading to an arrest, however, none was ever made.
"The anti-Semitic vandalism that took place at the off-campus apartment building is reprehensible," said UCF spokesman Chad Binette.
In July at the University of Oregon, the mailboxes at a Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, were spray painted with swastikas.
And last month at Emory University, two Jewish fraternities were targeted. Swastikas were spray painted on the front of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house. Swastikas were also found spray painted on a stone wall outside of the Kappa Alpha fraternity house after the end of the Jewish holy holiday, Yom Kippur.
"On behalf of our community, I denounce this abhorrent act. It is an offense against Jewish members of our community, and it is a repugnant, flagrant emblem of anti-Semitism. It is also an offense against the entire university," said Emory University President James Wagner.
"Emory University will not tolerate such acts. Instead we must together pledge Emory University's continuing commitment to raise awareness and prevent all forms of violence and discrimination; to foster openness and diversity of thought, experience, spirituality and culture; and to seek positive transformation in our community and the world."
In response to the crimes committed against Emory University's Jewish fraternity, UCF's Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter held an event on Oct. 13 to take a stand against anti-Semitism. AEPi invited people to wear blue to raise awareness and show that any form of bigotry and hatred will not be tolerated at UCF.
"Our fraternity believes the recent attacks on Jewish students are absurd," said Aaron Tell, a senior business marketing major and civics chairman of UCF's AEPi. "We should all be coming together and overcoming all issues together, everyone was created equal. Anti-Semitism should not be occurring in today's world.
"After hearing about the incident at University House in April, it angered many of us, but we were happy that anti-Semitism didn't escalate as we have seen at other schools over the last several weeks," Tell said. "After the incident at Emory, we were afraid this could be the start of more anti-Semitism acts spreading across campus. AEPi held a conference in September about the rise in anti-Semitism across the U.S. and how to handle the situation if another incident was to occur at UCF."
UCF has Jewish resources, from AEPi, to the Jewish sorority Alpha Epsilon Phi, as well as student organizations Chabad, Hillel, Knights for Israel and KnightPac that are all taking precautions and are ready to take a stand against anti-Semitism.
"We need to take a stand and stand together," Tell said.
The Zionist Organization of America is another resource students can go to off campus for help.
"The ZOA is committed to doing everything it can to ensure that college campuses are a safe place for Jewish students to openly express their Judaism and Zionism," said Sharona Whisler, Florida Executive Director of ZOA.
ZOA was influential in getting Title VI of the Civil Rights Act amended in order to protect Jewish students from intimidation and harassment. This means that a public university is at risk of losing its federal funding if it does not respond adequately to anti-Semitic incidents.
"The university should be held accountable if it is not taking reasonable steps to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitism," Whisler said. "It's also important for Jewish students to be educated on their rights under Title VI."
College students who feel threatened, harassed or discriminated against can report incidents to their regional ZOA campus coordinator for referral to ZOA's Center for Law and Justice. The ZOA will review all cases and follow through with letters of concern or possible legal action when necessary, all at no cost.
The Orange County Police Department should also be contacted.
"Students should not be afraid to speak out. ZOA is here to help," Whisler said.