After 'anti-Semitic assault,' Towson University Jewish fraternity to hold anti-hate rally

In April, two members of Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi told police that while walking near campus, they were followed by two fellow Towson University students who yelled anti-Semitic slurs and then assaulted them.

Now, with the start of the new academic year, the fraternity is sponsoring an event to speak out against hate.

“After the incident that happened, we wanted to have an event on Towson’s campus to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Joshua Leckner, president of the Towson chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi.

The event, which is open to the campus community, will be held in Freedom Square on the campus on Thursday, Sept. 13, at 5 p.m.

Speakers will include Towson University President Kim Schatzel, as well as the Rev. Mitchell Johnson, a minister from Chicago invited by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to speak about issues of hate affecting the African-American community.

The rally is being organized in conjunction with the Wiesenthal center, a Los Angeles-based human rights organization that researches the Holocaust and combats anti-Semitism.

Its message is that “we’re really all in this together,” said Alison Pure-Slovin, Midwest regional director of the center. “And what makes America great is that we’re a melting pot, but what that melting pot needs is respect between diverse groups.”

Leckner said the idea for the event came as the 18-member chapter grappled with the feelings that arose after members were allegedly targeted in the hate crime.

In the April 29 incident, the two Alpha Epsilon Pi members told police that they were walking to a house in the unit block of Aigburth Road at 2:12 a.m. when two suspects followed them, shouting “F--- the Jews” and another ethnic slur. The assailants then followed the victims to the front of the house and began to punch one of the victims in the face, the report said.

“A lot of our brothers, including myself, were upset when the incident happened,” Leckner said. “We were shocked, surprised. We were in disbelief.”

The victims have not pressed charges against the alleged assailants. Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Peach said in April that because the incident was a second-degree assault, the assailants cannot be prosecuted unless victims choose to do so. The victims have a year to press charges, Peach said.

In the aftermath of the event, Leckner said the university administration, including Schatzel, reached out to the chapter and offered support.

“Hateful conduct is inexcusable and will not be tolerated at Towson University,” Schatzel said in a statement released shortly after the incident. “Our community has worked relentlessly to achieve a more diverse and inclusive campus that supports every member to thrive, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or levels of ableness.”

The university announced it had ended an investigation into the alleged hate crime in mid-May, but spokesman Sean Welsh declined to release information about consequences for the assailants, citing laws on student privacy.

Pure-Slovin said she found out about the incident through an app called CombatHate, run by the Wiesenthal center, that offers support to victims of hate crimes on campus. The Towson University incident particularly concerned her because it was violent, she said.

“The [idea for the] rally came from when I spoke to the young people who felt so traumatized and paralyzed by this,” Pure-Slovin said. The chapter wanted to do something right away, but with finals and the end of the school year rapidly approaching decided to wait until the beginning of the fall semester instead.

“We said, what better way to start the school year than by saying, ‘We will not tolerate this on our campus,’” Pure-Slovin said.

Leckner said the rally, while important for spreading an anti-hate message, is also reflective of Alpha Epsilon Pi’s mission to develop leaders.

“This is what leadership does,” Leckner said.

This story has been updated to say that the event is open only to the Towson University campus community.

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