Jewish student center intentionally set on fire, authorities say

Authorities say the fire was intentional, however, they are not calling it a hate crime.

A Jewish student center at the University of Delaware was set on fire Tuesday night.

A Jewish student center at the University of Delaware was set on fire Tuesday night. According to authorities, the burning of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life was intentional; however, they are not labeling it as a hate crime.

Newark, Delaware Mayor Jerry Clifton called the intentional act “heartbreaking.”

“This is a sickening act of hostility that threatens the safety and security of our inclusive, welcoming neighborhoods,” said Clifton.

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According to the Newark Post, it took firefighters 45 minutes to get the fire under control, and crews had to remain on scene for three hours to extinguish other hotspots. Though the building was not occupied during the fire and no injuries were reported, there was “significant” damage estimated at $75,000, said Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Company Deputy Chief A.J. Schall.

The Chabad Center for Jewish Life called itself a “home away from home” for Jewish students to socialize, take classes, or receive advice and referrals.

StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism Director Carly F. Gammill told Campus Reform that this illustrates the increasing danger that Jewish Americans are facing around the country. She also highlighted the need for added security while pointing to an incident at a Chabad house in Oregon just last week.

That incident was investigated as possible arson but investigators have since said they don't suspect foul play, although the probe is ongoing.

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“We urge the local authorities to investigate the strong likelihood that this was a hate crime, and we stand ready to offer reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any individual who engages in hate crimes like this against Jews or their property,” said Gammill.

Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael G. Chionchio said a criminal arson investigation is underway, according to the Newark Post.

“The Fire Marshal’s office has found no indicators that this case was a hate crime, though a thorough investigation continues,” University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis and VIce President for Student Life José-Luis Riera said, according to WHYY-TV.

Campus Reform also reached out to the University of Delaware for a statement but did not hear back in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @JezzamineWolk