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Jewish Communal Building on Texas University Campus Defaced with Anti-Israel Rhetoric

Texas Hillel Foundation’s building and parking lot in West Campus was vandalized with “vulgar antisemitic epithets,” the organization said in a statement.

“Our community is experiencing an exponential rise in antisemitism and hatred, and it is deeply distressing to see it here,” said the statement, posted Thursday on Instagram.

Texas Hillel, at 2105 San Antonio St., is the University of Texas’ center of Jewish student life and an affiliate of Hillel International.

UT police responded to a report of graffiti and criminal mischief at 4:53 p.m. Wednesday at Texas Hillel, according to a police report obtained by the Statesman. It states “anti-Jewish” under suspect hate/bias motivated and values the damage at $201.

The Austin Police Department, which a UT police spokesperson said is the lead agency on the case, also responded to the incident. Austin police did not answer Statesman questions Friday. The university said UT police will support Austin officers with their investigation.

“The University condemns in the strongest terms the intentional targeting of members of our community with abhorrent and hateful graffiti,” the university said in a statement to the Statesman.

The university also expressed gratitude to West Campus Ambassadors for working to remove the graffiti.

“We have zero tolerance for antisemitic actions against our Jewish community or hate-filled actions targeting our Palestinian and Muslim communities,” the statement added.West Campus Ambassadors, a team established by UT that focuses on safety and beautification in West Campus, assessed the graffiti at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday and began removing it that evening, said Bernabe Quinones, its operations manager. The damage covered the back of the parking lot and was on a limestone sign and the building’s front, Quinones said.

The graffiti that remained Friday afternoon centered on the war in Gaza. “Free Palestine” was still visible on a brick wall and next to Texas Hillel signs by both entrances, and another message accused Israel of genocide.

“Vandalism frees no one. Defacing property neither enacts justice nor promotes peace,” Texas Hillel’s statement said.

On Oct. 7, Hamas, a Palestinian extremist government and military group, launched a surprise attack on Israel, setting off a war in the Middle East in which more than 31,000 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Gaza, according to the territory’s health ministry, CNN reported Saturday.

The Texas Hillel parking lot was vandalized Oct. 8, sparking fear in UT’s Jewish community. Students painted over the graffiti to create a peace wall. Antisemitic vandalism was also found near the UT campus in September.

“This conduct is not constitutionally protected speech,” the university said in a statement Sept. 21. “UT condemns these actions and will refer for discipline any University-associated individuals found to have vandalized University or city property.”

Nationally, antisemitic incidents increased 361% in the three months after Oct. 7, the Anti-Defamation League reported with preliminary data in January.

Quinones said West Campus safety ambassadors are available in the area to escort people from 3:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. Cleaning ambassadors work from 7 a.m. to 3:30 a.m.

Texas Hillel said the organization is working to support students and foster a vibrant, safe community on campus for Jewish people to celebrate their faith.

“While we are saddened by these hateful acts, they do not detract from the excellent work our student leaders, staff, and board are doing to support Jewish students,” the statement said.

“That work continues every day,” it added.

https://www.statesman.com/story/news/crime/2024/03/18/antisemitic-vandalism-reported-texas-hillel-by-university-of-texas/72987842007/