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Antisemitic Graffiti Targets Jewish Fraternity at Illinois University

Police at Bradley University are investigating a possible hate crime after a person spray-painted messages targeting the campus’ Jewish community early Friday morning.

The Bradley Police Department said that at 7:13 a.m., they were called to the 1300 block of West Fredonia Avenue in response to an incident several hours earlier in which graffiti was spray-painted at several spots on campus. The incident occurred between the hours of 3:45 a.m. to 4:22 a.m. and appeared to be motivated by bias against a religious group, later reported to be the Jewish community.

Matt Lorch, executive director of the campus’ Hillel, said that the suspect targeted Bradley Hall, Dingeldine Music Center and the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house. He said that the messages written on the buildings included references to Israel’s current conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip and that those who spread those messages didn’t help the cause of those currently impacted by the crisis.

“AEPi is a Jewish fraternity (and) is known as a Jewish fraternity,” Lorch said. “When you go to a Jewish building and spray-paint and vandalize the building, it does nothing to help your cause (or) show your support for what is happening to help solve a crisis. All it does is provide intimidation for what is going on and spread hatred to specific groups of people.”

Lorch felt frustrated and annoyed that someone would choose to do such an act instead of listening to the Jewish community and finding common ground. He was satisfied with how the university quickly acted to send a message that actions like that wouldn’t be tolerated on campus.

“I appreciate what the administration is doing and how they are the ones who told us about it,” Lorch said. “They initiated a police report, sent crews to clean up the mess and reminding the campus community and Peoria itself that Bradley is no place for hate, that all are welcome and all shall be safe here. I’m grateful for that.”

Rabbi Eli Langsam of the Lubavitch Chabad of Peoria and the Jewish Bradley Chabad said that the AEPi facility had a sign at the front showing their support for the state of Israel. He referred to those who spray-painted the campus as “cowardly” and said that the act was one of bigotry regardless of one’s political views on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“We have to let our children know and we have to let everybody know that hatred has no place (here),” Langsam said. “Not on Bradley University, not in the Peoria community, not anywhere. Hatred doesn’t help anyone.”

He felt that an incident such as this can be used as a learning opportunity to teach people about the conflict, how it began with Hamas’ terrorist attack on Oct. 7 and its impact on the Jewish people.

“Spraying graffiti on a Jewish building doesn’t help anybody and is not going to change anything,” he said.

Bradley President Stephen Standifird said in a statement to campus that those who did this would be held accountable for their actions. He also promised to ensure that students have access to the proper support systems through Hillel and the Chabad, to increase BUPD’s presence on campus for the time being and to provide them enough support to investigate the incident.

“I want to reiterate, in the strongest of terms, that Bradley University will not tolerate any act targeting members of our community, especially if those acts are based on any aspect of antisemitism, race, gender, sexuality, national origin, religion, etc.,” Standifird said. “We have a moral and ethical responsibility to protect everyone who chooses to call Bradley University home.”

The national AEPi organization released a statement saying that Bradley administrators needed to continue efforts to protect Jewish people on campus, to fully investigate the incident and potentially expel those involved if they happened to be a student at the school.

“Anything less is unacceptable,” AEPi said. “It is no longer time for words. It is time for action to protect Jewish students.”

BUPD said that there is no imminent threat to campus. Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact them at (309) 677-2000, the Peoria Police Department at (309) 673-4521 or anonymously through their Tip411 app, or Crime Stoppers at (309) 673-9000.