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Student taken into custody after antisemitic incident at Penn Hillel in University City

Student taken into custody after antisemitic incident at Penn Hillel
Student taken into custody after antisemitic incident at Penn Hillel 02:16

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A student was taken into custody Thursday after causing a disturbance at the Penn Hillel building in University City as the student-led Jewish organization had its morning prayer services.

Around 6:55 a.m., a student ran into the building after the door was opened for morning prayer services and shouted antisemitic comments, while knocking over furniture, according to officials. 

Fortunately, no one was hurt and no students were in the building or witnessed the incident. 

The student was quickly apprehended by Penn Police when staff chased him out of the building, and officials said police were aware of the student's presence after he knocked over trash cans on Walnut Street and was acting erratically before getting into the building.

The Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Jason Holtzman, released a statement:

"The Palestine Writes Festival has already emboldened antisemitism on Penn's campus. This morning, a perpetrator ran into the Penn's Hillel building, spewing antisemitic tropes and vandalizing the Hillel lobby. The perpetrator has since been arrested. With student safety paramount, we encourage anyone on campus to report any incidents to the University of Pennsylvania police officials."

One student we spoke with says there needs to be more dialogue to avoid these situations.  

"In such a kind of volatile time with so many strong emotions, I think the worst thing we can kind of do is insulate ourselves or hunker down when really we need to have deep and sometimes uncomfortable conversations with the larger community," UPenn sophomore Jake Zubkoff said. "I think that's really the only way we can go forward."

Here is part of a statement from Penn Hillel officials:

"1. Penn Hillel takes the security of Jewish students and staff on campus as our most fundamental mission. At a given moment, we have private security guards, Penn Police both off-duty and on-duty, and are in collaboration with the Secure Communities Network of the Jewish Federation. We will continue to ensure that this primary objective is always fulfilled. We have requested full-time security presence, provided by Penn, in front of our building, beginning immediately.

2. This person did not accidentally choose to enter our building. He did not accidentally choose to shout antisemitic slogans. He chose our building. He chose to do so just three days before Yom Kippur. He chose to do so one day before a number of speakers are coming to campus who have histories of making antisemitic and hate-filled statements against Jews. This was not a coincidence.

3. Penn Hillel's community will never stop, nor be afraid, of welcoming the full breadth of campus life and diversity into our home. Our doors will always remain open to all members of the campus ecosystem. This past year, 3,000 undergraduate students stepped through our doors to attend classes, celebrate holidays, eat together, attend one of our many different prayer services, learn about Israel and its people, and experience all the joys of Jewish life that our vibrant campus community has to offer.

We are saddened by these events, but are utterly undeterred in our mission — to support every single student on campus during their Penn journey, Jewishly, and in so many other ways — today, tomorrow, and for years to come."

Officials did not release any other information on the student at this time. 

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