Campus Groups 'Outraged' About Assault of Jewish Student; University Investigating

"Hillel calls on Temple University to take action against Students for Justice In Palestine with the clear message that all students may express themselves in peaceful and non-violent ways without fear of physical assault"

In a clear statement, Hillel at Temple expressed outrage at the alleged assault of a Jewish student on campus which occurred Wednesday evening:

Hillel and the Jewish community at Temple University are shocked and saddened by an attack on a Temple Jewish student by representatives of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).  We are further angered that, as reported, the assault was accompanied by blatant anti-Semitic verbalabuse. This incident occurred during a university-sponsored event at an information table organized by SJP.

Hillel calls on Temple University to swiftly initiate disciplinary procedures against Students for Justice In Palestine.  We urge the University administration to reassure the Temple community that students may express themselves in peaceful and non-violent ways without fear of physical assault and that expressions of ethnic hatred- will not be tolerated on Temple’s campus.

Hillel is concerned for the safety of Temple’s Jewish and pro-Israel students, for their ability to openly display symbols of Jewish identity and affiliation on campus, and for their right to express their support for Israel without intimidation. 

Towards this end we are taking several actions:

Hillel is working with Temple university administrators and police to assure the safety of Temple’s Jewish students and to maintain Temple as a place where Jews and Jewish expression are welcome.

Hillel is opening its facility as a space where Jewish students can talk with Hillel professionals, counselors from the Counseling Center and fellow students about their Judaism, their feelings towards Israel, and their concerns about safety on campus.

Hillel staff and student leaders are reaching out to Jewish students to prepare appropriate responses that celebrate Jewish life at Temple and show support for Israel.

Hillel believes that the most effective response to an incident such as this is the proud celebration of Jewish life and a firm expression of our love for Israel.  Our primary concern is for the safety and security of Temple’s Jewish community and entire campus. We wish a full and speedy recovery to the victim of yesterday’s assault and call upon all members of the Temple community to work towards fostering a positive and inclusive environment.

Daniel Vessal, a CAMERA on Campus fellow and a member of the Jewish fraternity AEPi, told TruthRevolt that he was punched in the face by an individual standing at a booth designated for Students for Justice in Palestine at "Templefest." Two witnesses confirmed his story and told TruthRevolt that individuals around the table called Vessal a “kike,” a “Zionist” and a “baby killer” while he lay injured on the ground.

SJP denied the charges in a convoluted press release and accused Vessal of provoking the attack. The group did acknowledge that an unnamed individual did strike Vessal, and acknowledged that the individual was associating with SJP members, while denying that the individual was an SJP member.

Temple University administration was quick to respond to the alleged incident of anti-Semitic violence.

“Temple University is investigating a report of an attack against a student late Wednesday afternoon.  The attack is alleged to have included physical violence and anti-Semitic statements and religious slurs,” Ray Betzner, Associate Vice President for Executive Communications told TruthRevolt. “As part of its investigation, Temple asks that anyone with information about the incident contact Campus Safety Services immediately at 215-204-1234.”

“Temple University unequivocally condemns the disparagement or assault of any person based on religion or nationality. The university will not tolerate violence of any kind directed against members of the Temple community,” he added. 

“In addition, university officials Wednesday night reached out to leaders of the Temple Jewish and pro-Palestinian communities to discuss the incident and a best path for moving forward.”

In an email to the Temple community, Theresa A. Powell the Associate Vice President for Excutive Communications noted that the "Templefest" event was "marred by an act of violence."

Hillel International CEO Eric Fingerhut told TruthRevolt  that “Hillel International condemns the use of violence and stands ready to work with the campus administration to ensure the safety and security of Temple's Jewish community and the entire campus.  We pray for a full and speedy recovery for the student involved in today's assault." Jacob Baime, Executive Director of Israel on Campus Coalition added via email that “There is no place for assault and battery on a college campus” and that he hopes “Temple and all universities take seriously the risk of violence targeting students who are simply exercising their right to free speech."

Andrea Levin, Executive Director and President of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), shared a similar sentiment and noted that "CAMERA is extremely concerned and expects the full weight of the university and the institution to ensure that Daniel and all students will be protected and this allegedly criminal action will be pursued to the fullest extent of the law." 

"As an organization devoted to constructive pro-Israel discussion on campus, AEPi finds it deplorable that a Jewish student would be physically assaulted and showered with anti-Semitic epithets," added Andy Borans Executive Director of AEPi.  "We trust that Temple University will conduct a full investigation into the individual in question and the chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine in order to ensure the safety of friends of Israel on campus. There is no place for violent assaults or anti-Semitism at any university." 

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a more recent version of Hillel's statement.