Union’s Upsilon Sigma chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi demonstrated its support for Emory’s Epsilon chapter last week in light of the Oct. 5 discovery of anti-Semitic graffiti on the Epsilon chapter’s fraternity house.
In describing the events that occurred at Emory, President of the Upsilon Sigma chapter Kyle Birnbaum ’15 stated, “The Sunday after Yom Kippur, which is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, the brothers of the Emory chapter woke up and there were black swastikas graffitied on their house, near the door. The next Tuesday, across the street from their house, next to Kappa Alpha, there were two more swastikas graffitied.”
The graffiti was called “crude” and “offensive” in an Emory University press release on Oct. 5.
According to Emory’s college newspaper, The Emory Wheel, anti-Semitic graffiti had also been found in the campus library on Sept. 10.
The Emory Wheel also stated that President of Emory University James W. Wagner sent an email to the campus community condemning the vandalism.
Wagner said, “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. In short, its appearance on our campus is an attack against everything for which Emory stands.”
In a statement released on Oct. 6, AEPi executive director Andrew Borans also commented on the vandalism at Emory University, saying, “Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident on college campuses in North America and across the world. The rising tide of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activity on college campuses is widespread and must be stopped. Universities are a place for the free and open exchange of ideas and Jewish students should not be made to feel unsafe in their homes on campuses.”
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu addressed AEPi in a YouTube video on Oct. 6, following the vandalism at Emory. He said, “I want to thank all of you for what you’re doing for Israel. I know there is a battle on the college campuses. It’s a battle for truth. Every day, Israel is maligned and slandered.”
There has been an apparent uptick in incidences of anti-Semitic vandalism on American campuses and sites associated with Judaism since the beginning of this academic year.
The Yale Daily News reported on Oct. 14 that swastikas were painted on a freshman dormitory on the evening of Oct. 12. The article also stated that, on Sept. 9, swastikas were found drawn on white boards on the Yale campus.
On Sunday, Oct. 19, The Jerusalem Post reported the vandalism of the Temple Mount, one of the most important Jewish religious sites in Jerusalem. According to The Jerusalem Post, a Star of David was equated to a swastika in the graffitied image.
Jewish Chair at AEPi’s Upsilon Sigma chapter Emmanuel Storch ’16 commented on this increase in anti-Semitic activity. He said, “Since this summer, there’s been an evident increase in anti-Semitism on campuses around America, and (Emory) is just one example of it. It was targeted, in this one case, against AEPi. Not only do we support our brothers at Emory, but we also stand against this surge in anti-Semitism across America.”
Following the Emory vandalism, a spontaneous photo campaign arose. AEPi chapters across the United States have been taking photos of themselves wearing their letters and holding signs demonstrating their solidarity with their brothers at Emory.
Kyle Birnbaum said, “It wasn’t anything organized by AEPi. Certain chapters just started taking pictures of themselves holding signs in support. And when they were shared on AEPi groups on Facebook, it started to become a trend. AEPi National posted on their Facebook to tag the photos with ‘#AEPiStandsWithEmory.’”
The Upsilon Sigma chapter took its photo on Oct. 14. All of the active, on-campus members and new members of Union’s chapter of AEPi appear in the photograph, along with a Union banner, the American flag, the Israeli flag and two signs with messages supporting the brothers at Emory University.
The photo was posted to Facebook on Oct. 14 with a message condemning acts of anti-Semitism on American campuses.
Birnbaum stated that the social-media response to the photo was unexpected. “From the minute the photo was posted, people started to like it. All the brothers shared it. In the beginning, it was mostly just Union students. But then, as it kept getting re-shared and liked by more people, I was getting notifications from people who I didn’t know — because I was the one who originally posted it. My picture, as of Friday night, has 165 likes, four comments and 27 shares. But that’s just my photo; all the other shares have likes as well.”
Birnbaum said that taking the photo was especially important to the Upsilon Sigma chapter because of its special relationship to AEPi Emory. He stated, “We have brothers at the house who have friends at AEPi Emory, which is why it really hit home and we wanted to do something. Although taking a picture seems small, spreading awareness that hateful acts are still happening everywhere and target a variety of different types of people is important to our house, and the photo campaign aims to do just that.”
Birnbaum continued, “AEPi at Union has always been very welcoming and open to people of a variety of different backgrounds and cultures, and this photo demonstrates our condemnation of hateful acts against all groups.”