Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Austin Jewish community responds to antisemitic graffiti near UT campus

Skyler Sharp
Construction workers eat lunch as students walk past the Texas Hillel Topper Center for Jewish Life on Oct. 4, 2023. Hillel is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world.

When Lily Deitelzweig approached the large orange words spray-painted on the sidewalk in front of her sorority house late last month, she was shocked. 

“I think everyone was appalled by it, Jewish or not,” said Deitelzweig, a health and society sophomore. “It was horrifying.” 

Deitelzweig said she then picked up the phone and called the police to report the graffiti, which displayed a combination of antisemitic and racist expletives and symbols, including a swastika. She said her friend also reported the incident to the West Campus Ambassadors, who responded immediately and removed the graffiti within about two hours of receiving the notification. 

The Sept. 20 incident occurred just a few days before Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for the Jewish community. Despite the harmful graffiti, Deitelzweig said she still felt connected while observing the holiday. 

“I can’t say or speculate if the person who graffitied knew of this,” Deitelzweig said. “I was very grateful that I have (Texas Hillel) and a Jewish community that I could fall back on.” 

The Austin Police Department responded to the incident, classifying it as a hate crime, according to an emailed statement. APD said they arrested a suspect on the same day of the incident. UTPD also filed a report. 

The University released a statement on the following day condemning the behavior. 

Caroline Burke, a member of UT’s Jewish community, said she wants more people to understand that antisemitism is real, and it’s happening everywhere. Reported antisemitic activity on college and university campuses increased by 41% last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League. 

“(Antisemitism) has been a very real part of me growing up as a Jewish woman,” education senior Burke said. “(The graffiti) happening so close to home was an emotional experience for everyone, but I think it was also a wakeup call to a lot of members of the UT community of ‘Wow, this happens here.’” 

Many of the University’s Jewish students are members of Jewish organizations housed within West Campus, such as Texas Hillel, Olami Texas and Chabad. The three organizations released a joint statement the day after the incident condemning the antisemitism and thanking community partners for their support. 

“These occurrences are real, as is the fear and harm experienced by students,” the statement said. “While uncommon at the University of Texas at Austin, the rise of antisemitism across campuses cannot be ignored nor tolerated in any form.”

Shalom Austin, the center for Jewish life in Central Texas, collaborated with UTPD and the Jewish organizations near campus to implement advanced security measures and ensure the incident was addressed swiftly.

Rabbi Daniel Septimus, former Texas Hillel executive director and current Shalom Austin CEO, emphasized the organization’s dedication to the safety of Jewish students. Shalom Austin helped increase security presence in their community center and near campus for the high holidays.

“We care deeply about the Jewish student community of UT (and) that they have the right environment to feel like they can celebrate their Jewish history, culture and identity,” Septimus said.

Shalom Austin’s efforts to combat antisemitism go beyond this incident as the organization partners with the ADL to develop educational training and programs on antisemitism for a variety of audiences to help combat the rise in anti-semitic hate.

“The more we can come together to work against the type of rhetoric that we’re hearing and the type of acts that follow, the more we can do to ally and to really show support for one another,” Septimus said.

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About the Contributor
Sarah Brager, General News Reporter
Sarah is a journalism junior from Buda, Texas. She's currently a senior news reporter, and she previously worked as a life and arts reporter and an opinion columnist. When she's not reporting for the Texan, Sarah loves hiking, drinking outrageous amounts of coffee and doing crossword puzzles.