The epitaph, "F— you Jews," spray-painted on the back of the Alpha Epsilon Pi house on North Broad Street, came less than a month after a coin-sized swastika was found etched into the aluminum siding of a service elevator at the University of Pennsylvania Hillel building. Officials said they don't believe the two incidents are related.
AEPi brothers noticed the graffiti when leaving through the back door of their house on the morning of Feb. 22 and called campus police to report the hate crime. They covered the offensive phrase and later removed it, said university spokesman Hillel Hoffman.
University and city police have been canvassing the neighborhood in hopes of identifying potential suspects captured on surveillance videos, Hoffman said. If the perpetrators turn out to be Temple students, they would be processed under the university's student code of conduct in addition to any city police charges.
This kind of intolerance "threatens the values that the university was founded on — and society's values as well," Hoffman said. "It's unacceptable, and we take it very seriously."
The Division of Public Safety at Penn launched a similar investigation following the Feb. 9 discovery of a swastika at Steinhardt Hall, but was unable to pinpoint a culprit.
A part-time employee of the kosher dining hall housed inside the building reported the symbol on an elevator used to bring up food from the basement level, said Rabbi Howard Alpert, executive director of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia. Hillel and food service staff from Bon Appétit are typically the only people who use that elevator, not students or the public, Alpert said.
Officials interviewed all the employees who work in the dining hall and found no reason to believe that any of them had to do with the graffiti, which was quickly polished out, Alpert said.
There's no telling how long the symbol was there, Alpert said. One theory is that a delivery person made the carving after getting angry with management. The current food staff members have good relationships with the students, he said, and they've never experienced hostility from them in the past, either. Alpert said he heard that Bon Appétit also volunteered to put their staff through sensitivity training.
A Penn official told the student newspaper that the swastika was the first report of a hate crime on campus in seven years. According to The Daily Pennsylvanian archives, a rash of anti-Semitic signs appeared a few years before that in 1994.
Anti-Semitic acts like these are rare in university settings, both locally and nationally, said Barry Morrison, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. Of more than 1,200 anti-Semitic incidents reported nationwide in 2010, ranging from criminal assaults to slurs, only a small fraction occurred on college campuses, he said.
The last major incident Morrison could recall at Temple happened in February 2008, when four students were arrested and suspended for allegedly using anti-Semitic language and assaulting two young men near the North Philadelphia campus. One of the victims, who was not a Temple student, suffered a broken nose and fractured eye socket.
Morrison lauded both campus administrations for being "willing to do whatever it takes" to belay concerns and look for the perpetrators of the recent graffiti.