In the early morning hours on Sunday, Oct. 5, brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi at Emory University awoke to find swastikas spray-painted on their fraternity house. This act occurred just after Yom Kippur ended on Saturday night. Yom Kippur is a day of atonement; it serves as the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, and it is marked with prayer and fasting.
Alpha Epsilon Pi has been active on the Atlanta campus since 1920 and is a historically Jewish fraternity. Many of the fraternity’s brothers are descendants of Holocaust survivors, a group of people for whom the swastika represents truly abhorrent acts.
Emory University president, Jim Wagner, spoke out about what the attack means to the fraternity and the campus as a whole.
“Among the many pernicious things the swastika symbolizes, in the last century it represented the most egregious and determined undermining of intellectual freedom and truth-seeking,” Wagner said in his official statement. “In short, its appearance on our campus is an attack against everything for which Emory stands.”
While this act is shocking and offensive to the Emory community, it is not an isolated incident. On Oct. 9, a Penn State student was convicted of similar hate crimes. After pleading guilty to ethnic intimidation, Eric Hayland was sentenced to 200 hours of community service and a $6,000 fine. This was as a result of his involvement with an act of vandalism that occurred on the Penn State campus last November when another Jewish fraternity was vandalized with paintings of swastikas on their house.
Quinnipiac University is not exempt from racially motivated crimes either. In 2012, a student was arrested and expelled for harassing African American members of the basketball team, using racial slurs and making threatening phone calls to their dorm rooms, according to NBC.
Many local and national fraternities have shown support for Emory University and the brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi.
At Quinnipiac, the historically Jewish fraternity is called Zeta Beta Tau. Adam Coopersmith, a member of ZBT, said the vandalism at Emory upset him as a fraternity brother and as a Jewish man.
“As a fraternity man I am saddened to see such acts of hatred done onto any organization be it Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, or any other denomination,” Coopersmith said. “Fraternities are a symbol of fun and integrity, and to have acts like this to a Greek brother of mine is very saddening.”
Sophomore Jordan Burnell agreed that these acts have no place in today’s society.
“I think it’s disgusting that people in this day and age can still hate people for being a different religion,” Burnell said. “There is no reason to hurt other people emotionally because they do not believe in the same thing.”
Many people find the swastika personally offensive. It served as a Nazi symbol during Hitler’s systematic genocide of European jews, as well as other minorities. For jewish people everywhere, it serves as a haunting memory of what their ancestors have gone through.
“Now as a Jewish man who has studied much about the holocaust I am appalled by people who claim misguided hatred at any race, religion, or ethnicity,” Coopersmith said. “The culprit obviously doesn’t understand the gravity of what the swastika stands for since Hitler’s third reich, but to the Jewish people it is a sign of grave attrition, suffering, and strife.
The perpetrators of the anti-Semitic acts at Emory are still unknown. The campus has increased patrols and is actively investigating the incident. The Emory community remains strong and the fraternity has since removed evidence of the vandalism.