AUSTIN, Texas - UTPD and West Campus ambassadors are expanding patrols through the weekend after multiple antisemitic incidents occurred on or near campus over the past week. The events occurred during the Jewish High Holidays.
"This is a time when the Jewish community is coming together to celebrate the New Year, which we celebrated this past weekend of Rosh Hashanah. And it's a time of introspection. It is a time when we don't want to worry about our own physical and emotional safety," said Rabbi Daniel A. Septimus, CEO of Shalom Austin. "So these incidents can be challenging, especially for our students who are on campus without their families."
UT Austin shared the following statement in response to the events:
"The University has received reports of antisemitic vandalism on or near the campus. This conduct is not constitutionally protected speech. UT condemns these actions and will refer for discipline any University-associated individuals found to have vandalized University or city property. Moreover, the University condemns acts taken against people because of their race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Such conduct does not align with our institutional values. Our University supports and celebrates the diversity of our community."
UTPD has not provided further details, but FOX 7 was told that graffiti with white supremacy symbolism was found outside a sorority house. Another situation may have involved hateful comments made to Jewish students.
"We are saddened and troubled by the instances of antisemitism that took place in West Campus this week, including vandalism and a physical altercation, both of which involved the use of antisemitic language and symbols," said a Facebook post by Texas Hillel, UT Austin’s student-led organization supporting the Jewish community. "While uncommon at the University of Texas at Austin, the rise of antisemitism across campuses cannot be ignored nor tolerated in any form."
"These are things that are happening all the time," said Mariette Hummel, co-founder of ATXKind.
The organization was founded in 2021 after multiple, local incidents of antisemitic activity.
"There was graffiti at Anderson High School targeting students on their reserved parking spots, and then there was the arson attack on my synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel," said Hummel.
Just last week, FOX 7 visited the newly renovated, temporary sanctuary at CBI where they were able to host High Holiday services for the first time since the 2021 fire.
Rabbi Septimus was there for Rosh Hashanah.
"It was really, really meaningful," he said.
However, the recent events give pause.
- Austin's 'We All Belong' initiative gives residents a tool to report hate crimes
- Congregation Beth Israel to host High Holiday services for first time since 2021 fire
- Antisemitic vandalism reported on, near UT Austin campus
"When you see a rise in anti-Semitism, when you see a rise from both the left and the right of anti-Semitic incidents, it usually correlates with a rise in hatred against all people and people from different backgrounds and faiths and traditions," said Rabbi Septimus. "And so we all have to work together to combat it."
"Anti-Semitism is a very bad sign of what's happening in the community and the culture of the community," she said.
A report released by the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday showed that Texas saw the number of reported antisemitic incidents increase by 89% from 2021 to 2022.
"If it's graffiti, one day, it can be something more severe the next day. And so we can't just dismiss something that seems like a minor incident," said Hummel. "In 2021, it started with hate speech, and it ended in a synagogue being set on fire. So we really need to take every incident seriously."
ATXKind was involved in the launch of the City’s "We All Belong" campaign this summer.
The goal of the campaign is to encourage the community to help keep Austin a safe and welcoming place and provide tools to report hate crimes and incidents.