Jewish student center vandalized just as the semester kicks off

The center's Executive Director did not categorize the attack as ethnically motivated.

A report found that 44% of Jewish students state that they, or someone that they know, have been the victim of anti-Semitism.

Vandals reportedly shattered a window of the University of Southern California’s (USC) Hillel building, a center for Jewish students at the university. 

USC Hillel Executive Director Dave Cohn confirmed the incident in an Aug. 23 statement but did not categorize the attack as ethnically motivated.

“At this time, we do not yet know the motives or identities of any involved, and are not yet prepared to characterize the incident,” Cohn said. “We do not know whether the damage was accidental, a random act of criminal vandalism, or if it specifically targeted our facility.”

The statement further clarified that the attack occurred during overnight hours and that the building was not occupied when it occurred. USC Hillel is working alongside the USC Department of Public Safety to investigate the incident.

[RELATED: Jewish students celebrate Passover as anti-Semitism persists on college campuses]

Cohen provided Campus Reform with the following statement on additional measures the organization is taking:

“A full investigation into the incident remains active under the leadership of the USC Department of Public Safety and the USC Office of Threat Assessment & Management in consultation with LAPD, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and a network of additional security partners.”

The event caught the attention of outside groups set on raising awareness about the rise of anti-Semitism on college campuses.

A photograph of the damage, for example, was uploaded to Twitter by StopAntisemitism, a self-described “watchdog organization dedicated to exposing… antisemitic behaviors.” The tweet labeled the vandalism as “horrifying” and attributed it to a rising trend of antisemitism on college campuses.

Liora Rez, Executive Director of StopAntisemitism, told Campus Reform that the act was “yet another reflection of growing Jew-hatred in Universities across the United States.”

Rez stated that the inflated attacks have worried students and parents about choosing where to attend college.

“These vile acts of intimidation in higher education institutions targeting one of the world’s most marginalized populations is why Jewish parents and students are reaching out to StopAntisemitism and asking about antisemitic climates at schools before they apply,” she said.

Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF), an organization that uses the “unique power of alumni to counter antisemitism,” issued a press release on Aug. 26 that pinpointed the vandalism as an example of anti-Semitism. 

Avi Gordon, Executive Director for ACF, told Campus Reform that the act was unsurprising, and pointed to the Department of Education's investigation into anti-Semitism as a key example of UCSF being a “hotbed for antisemitism.”

“While we still don’t know all the details, there is a clear correlation nationwide between antisemitic rhetoric and criminal acts against Jews,” Gordan said. 

[RELATED: POLL: 50% of Jewish students feel they ‘need to hide their identity’ on campus]

In August 2021, ACF published a report that found 44% of Jewish students state that they, or someone that they know, have been the victim of anti-Semitism, while 95% of students and graduates ping anti-Semitism as a rising problem on campus.

Campus Reform has monitored this trend, as well. Past reporting highlights the vandalismresolutions, and rhetoric perpetuated on campus that contributes to anti-Semitic campus climates. 

The result has caused Jewish students to feel anxious on campus. One student admitted to Campus Reform that it was “scary to be a Jew in America.”

Campus Reform contacted USC, Cohen, the Department of Public Safety, Stop Antisemitism, and ACF for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

Follow @Alexaschwerha1 on Twitter.