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Assault on Temple Campus Pursued as a Hate Crime

February 28, 2008 By:
Michelle Mostovy-Eisenberg, JE Feature
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Affidavits of probable cause have been submitted by detectives to the District Attorney's office seeking warrants to arrest four Temple University students who allegedly used anti-Semitic language and assaulted two Jewish males, severely injuring one of them, on the North Philadelphia campus.

The university has suspended the four students in question, pending the outcome of a University Disciplinary Committee hearing.

The incident took place on the 2000 block of North Broad Street, near the intersection with Norris Street, outside the former house of Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Jewish Fraternity of North America, shortly before 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 15.

At that time, according to the police report, two white males -- one a 23-year-old and the other a 22-year-old -- were approached and surrounded by the four Temple students.

One of the four asked the two men if they were members of the fraternity, and the older man answered "No." The one who asked the original question then replied using an anti-Semitic expletive and punched the 23-year-old, a Northeast Philadelphia resident, in the face, breaking his nose and fracturing his right eye socket.

The victim was transported to Temple University Hospital and released later the same day. His friend was unharmed.

The fraternity had moved a few doors down from its former site.

Neither of the two young men goes to Temple, though the younger one resides in the neighborhood; the older of the two attends Penn State University, the younger the Community College of Philadelphia.

When contacted by the Jewish Exponent, the 22-year-old said that he and his friend had just exited the Owl's Nest pizzeria, and that the assault "was, to say the least, surprising," and "completely unprovoked, out of nowhere."

The two asked to have their names withheld to protect their privacy and their safety.

Though the police report and campus suspensions only refer to four suspects, he said there were as many as seven people involved.

"We were surrounded," he described. "We were trying to avoid confrontation."

The 22-year-old added that he had never seen any of the alleged perpetrators before.

He said that he hopes the incident "raises some sort of awareness that issues like this can happen" on school campuses.

The 23-year-old has told the Exponent that he missed several days of work and school due to his injuries. He was on pain medication and is still seeing a doctor for treatment.

He added that when his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor who now lives in Florida, heard about the attack, he cried.

"He didn't think it could happen to his grandchildren," reported the victim.

According to police, two of the four alleged perpetrators are 19 years old; one is 20; and one is listed as 22.

"All of the offenders are current Temple students," said Philadelphia Police Officer Jillian Russell, who added that the 22-year-old is the alleged perpetrator in the attack.

The charges listed in the affidavits of probable cause submitted to the D.A.'s office are aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, ethnic intimidation, conspiracy and making terroristic threats. It was unclear if all six charges apply to all four suspects, or only to the principal attacker.

As of press time on Tuesday, none of the alleged perpetrators had been arrested.

"Hate crimes will not be tolerated by Temple University," stated Ann Weaver Hart, Temple's president, in an e-mail sent to faculty, trustees, students and some alumni on Feb. 22.

She also stated that the university is "taking this situation very seriously, and will be developing programs for students and the broader university community to address issues of tolerance and civility on our campuses."

Citing federal privacy laws, the university's assistant director of news communications, Hillel J. Hoffmann, said: "We cannot say anything else beyond what is in the president's statement, at this time."

Rabbi Howard Alpert, executive director of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, noted that a meeting was held for Hillel student leaders on Feb. 18, during which time the captain of the university's police department spoke by phone to the group to discuss security issues on campus.

"There is no question this was an anti-Semitic act," stated Barry Morrison, ADL regional director for Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware. "This was a serious attack."

To help address the situation, a town-hall meeting, "Confronting Anti-Semitism at Temple University," will take place on Thursday, Feb. 28, at 8 p.m. on Temple's main campus at a location that had not been determined by press time. Representatives from the school's Jewish community, administration and ADL are scheduled to be in attendance. u

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