Eight numbers. Eight numbers scribbled down on the chalkboard of Sensational Subs sent fraternities Pi Kappa Alpha, Alpha Epsilon Pi and the school’s administration into a frenzy.
On September 28th, members of AEPi were alerted to a message written on the sandwich shop’s board. It had most likely been written the prior day at a time when dozens of greek life members meet at the establishment. When members of the Jewish fraternity went to the restaurant to see it for themselves, the message was still there. The chalk that clung to the board read the letters of Pi Kappa Alpha and the years “1933-1945”, referencing the years when six million Jewish people were killed.
The photos began spreading everywhere. It went online, floating around the social media accounts of students. By Thursday afternoon, the information of the antisemitic message trickled to the first Jewish executive vice president of SGA’s Ira Livnat’s phone.
He wished he was more outraged.
His experiences with antisemitism almost desensitized him to the eight numbers that stared back at him on the phone screen. In his five years at Georgia State, he’s seen worse. Swastikas scratched out on the bathroom walls, loogies launched at him. Livnat wasn’t surprised at this display of bigotry on campus.
Sammy Weinburg, the president of AEPi, commented on the event. He and his fraternity brothers were still upset, but he said the situation was “very menial.”
He didn’t place blame on the university.
“I’m not gonna say it’s Georgia State’s fault,” Weinberg said.
In his view, it was just some student who did something stupid, and that decision isn’t representative of Pike as a whole. In fact, he commended the leadership of Pike, stating that they were “moving mountains” with their investigation.
Something that Weinburg and Livnat shared was that they haven’t felt discriminated against by Pike’s executive board. They’re both keeping tabs on the investigation. They didn’t share many details on what exactly Pike was doing to find and punish the perpetrator. Pike didn’t respond to the Signal’s inquiries, but Pike and the university issued statements.
Pike’s statement on Instagram read that the message was not endorsed by the fraternity. They were “appalled by this message” and “disturbed that someone would write this and include our Greek letters.”
Itai Shefler, a member of AEPi and one of the first people to see the message on the 27th, called out Pike, finding it hard to believe that none of the fraternity brothers saw the numbers. His comment got 40 likes.
In a comment to the Signal, Shefler had this to say,
“When we got to (Sensational Subs), I was first off all really upset to see that it was still up there and that no one had noticed. – I personally was really upset with GSU’s response to this whole incident.”
The university released an official statement on October 2nd, condemning the incident.
“This behavior does not reflect our institutional values,” said the university.
The university also offered support to Jewish students in the statement. Livnat said they didn’t.
“They hadn’t yet offered their support to the entire Jewish community,” said Livnat.
Livnat was frustrated with the letter, calling it “less than the bare minimum.” Shefler was also unsatisfied by the university response.
Shefler also took issue with the first statement, stating,
“I feel like it took them way too long to make any form of response and even now, over two weeks since it happened, still very little has been done.”
The school issued another statement about the situation on October 4, penned by Georgia State president Brian Blake. This statement started with Blake wanting to express his support for the Jewish community. He condemned the message and said that the Cultures, Communities and Inclusion team will be doing more to support communities of faith.
Though this was one incident, Livnat felt the recent incident is part of a troubling trend nationwide.
In September, the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that documents antisemitism in college, reported 42 instances of antisemitic behavior happening on campuses. To note, the AMCHA does consider anti-Zionist statements as antisemitism.
Weinburg would agree.
“With the rise of anti-Zionism comes the rise of antisemitism,” said Weinburg.
In fact, the Anti-Defamation League found that there was a 34% increase in antisemitic incidents across the country last year. Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO, attributed the rise to people in authority making claims attacking the Jewish state.
As of the moment of publication, the perpetrator has still not been identified. It remains to be seen if the investigation will bear the name of the culprit. It remains to be seen if the administration will put its money where its mouth is and deliver on protecting its Jewish community. Livnat remains hopeful.
“There’s hope because there’s action,” said Livnat.
And Livnat is a part of that action. Last year, Livnat worked with the Vice President of Student Engagement Dr. Micheal Sanseviro to honor Holocaust Rememberance Day at Georgia State. He also proposed that the two fraternities and university officials tour the Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, an event organised by Livnat.
While the investigation is still underway, Livnat tells students to listen. Listen to what the Jewish community is saying. Educate. Read up about of the anti-Semitic atrocities that Jewish people suffered through the ages.