COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Two Ohio State University students were assaulted and a Jewish student center was vandalized on Thursday, with Acting President Dr. Peter Mohler saying both incidents “directly targeted our Jewish community.”
Two students were assaulted near 15th Avenue and High Street after leaving a bar at about 1:30 a.m. on Friday, Mohler said in a statement. The pair were approached by two men who asked the students their religion, yelled out antisemitic slurs and struck both students in the face before fleeing on foot.
“One of the students was treated at the Wexner Medical Center and released,” Mohler said. “Our thoughts are with these students and their families and we are offering all assistance we can for them.”
The incident occurred just blocks away from the Hillel Wexner Jewish Student Center, where vandalism was caught on camera at about 1 p.m. on Thursday. Police said two women entered the center and asked to look around, which they were allowed to do. One of the women went into a room and began taking Israeli flags.
When confronted, she ran out, yelling an obscenity and, “You support genocide. Free Palestine.” She then dropped the flags, and then she and the other woman got into a car being driven by a man and left.
“Antisemitism is despicable and has no place in our community,” Mohler said in the statement. “The university will pursue all action possible against anyone committing hate crimes on or near our campus.”
CEO of Wenxer Hillel Foundation Naomi Lamb, speaking before the assaults, had called on Mohler to condemn the vandalism. The time of that incident wasn’t immediately known, but in a Facebook post at 7:19 p.m., the Hillel said it happened earlier that day.
“We continue to be here for our students, and their physical and emotional safety remains top priority,” Lamb said.
According to Julie Stanley, the interim CEO of JewishColumbus, since Oct. 7, which is when the attacks in the Middle East first happened, antisemitic incidents across the United States have gone up over 400%.
“Our goal is to continue to create a vibrant and safe community. We want everyone to feel safe and secure while they are showing their Jewish identity and pride. That means whether it’s going to a Jewish program, attending a synagogue, or a Jewish Day school or preschool, it is vital that we all feel like we’re in this together and that we are safe and secure,” Stanley said.
Police said there is no indication the two incidents are related.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine also spoke out following the incidents and said he instructed the Ohio State Highway Patrol to coordinate with the university’s police department and Columbus police to provide extra patrols for the area around campus.
“We will not tolerate hate and violence on our college campuses or anywhere in Ohio,” said DeWine. “These are despicable acts, and as Governor, I will ensure that the State continues our efforts to protect all Ohio students.”
Columbus police are investigating both incidents. Anyone with information may call them at 614-645-4545.