(J. Jewish News of Northern California via JTA) — Police investigating shellfish dumped on the grounds of the Jewish fraternity at the University of California, Berkeley, say they are no longer treating the vandalism as a potential hate crime.
Alpha Epsilon Pi had said it interpreted the strewn shellfish as “act of antisemitic vandalism” because shellfish is barred by Jewish dietary laws. But the fraternity, university and local police since learned that AEPi’s house wasn’t the only target, they all confirmed.
“The Berkeley Police Department has determined that a hate crime did not occur,” Jessica Perry, a Berkeley police public information officer, said in an email on Thursday. “We confirmed that multiple fraternities had shellfish dumped in their yards on the early morning of August 26th. We want to reiterate that our department did not take this investigation lightly and confirmed through further investigation that the involved students did, in fact, not target Alpha Epsilon Pi.”
The incident began before 1 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, the first Shabbat of the school year, when a fraternity brother noticed a half-dozen people with a bucket approach the house, Jadon Gershon-Friedberg, a UC Berkeley senior and AEPi chapter president who lives in the fraternity house, said earlier this week.
He and other fraternity members immediately checked around neighboring fraternity houses early Saturday to see whether shellfish had been dumped outside other fraternity houses. They concluded at the time that their house was the only target.
Gershon-Friedberg did not respond to requests for comment after the revelation that vandalism had taken place at multiple locations.
The Berkeley chapter of AEPi expressed relief in a statement but said the incident had left Jewish Berkeley students with concern.
“While we can’t imagine the rationale for this, we are gratified to know that AEPi may not have been specifically singled out because of our commitment to being Jewish,” the statement continued. “Ignorance, however, does not excuse antisemitism and this event has contributed to an environment in which Jewish students are concerned for their safety and being discriminated against.”
The UC Berkeley administration earlier this week said it was investigating “what appears to be a hateful incident of antisemitism.” But the administration confirmed that the shellfish dump “may have occurred at multiple fraternities,” according to an email from UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof on Wednesday afternoon.
“To be clear, regardless of the facts as they unfold, we understand that the members of AEPi experienced this as an antisemitic attack and in conversations that have been had with AEPi leaders, that sense of harm was very evident,” Mogulof said in the email. “When dealing with the emotional and social fallout from incidents of bias and bigotry, intent can be distinct from impact.”
AEPi said it had heard from people responsible for the vandalism. “At least some of the people who perpetrated this act have come forward to our chapter’s leadership and apologized for their actions,” it said in its statement.
The fraternity said it would raise funds for the Anti-Defamation League’s Antisemitism Response Center, a new partnership with AEPi and its 150 local chapters to help members report and respond to acts of antisemitism on campuses.
“We hope to help our campus heal and move forward,” the group said in its statement.