University of Delaware Chabad Fire Was Arson, Investigators Say

The estimated damage is $150,000-$200,000.
August 27, 2020
Resident halls at the University of Delaware. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The state’s fire marshal ruled that a fire at the University of Delaware Chabad’s Center for Jewish Life on Aug. 26 was an act of arson.

Delaware Online reported that firefighters were called at around 11:15 p.m. on Aug. 26; it took the firefighters three hours to extinguish fire. No one was inside the building at the time of the fire.

Investigators initially estimated the Chabad sustained $75,000 in damage from the fire, but the estimate has since risen to $150,000-$200,000. Investigators also said they have not seen any evidence indicating that the arson was a hate crime; the investigation is ongoing.

University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis and Vice President Student for Life Jose-Luis Riera said in a statement to community members on Aug. 26 that the university stands with the Jewish community.

“While not a University of Delaware-owned facility, the Chabad Center serves as a Jewish community center for our campus and sponsors a Registered Student Organization,” Assanis and Riera said. “It is an active part of UD’s religious, faith and spiritual diversity. We affirm our solidarity with the Jewish community at this difficult time.”

University of Delaware’s Hillel also expressed solidarity with the Chabad.

“Our thoughts are with our colleagues, friends and students at Chabad at the University of Delaware,” the Jewish campus group said in a statement. “We are one Jewish Blue Hen Community and will do whatever we can to help you build back.”

Newark, Del., Mayor Jerry Clifton condemned the arson. The university is located in Newark.

“It is heartbreaking to learn the fire at the Chabad Center was set intentionally,” Clifton said. “This is a sickening act of hostility that threatens the safety and security of our inclusive, welcoming neighborhoods. My thoughts are with the Jewish community and those affected by this tragedy.”

Jewish groups also denounced the arson.

“Another Chabad House, this time at Uni of Delaware, has been damaged by arson,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted. “Last week Chabad House in Portland Oregon suffered damage from arson attack. SWC urges Trump/Pence & Biden/Harris to strongly condemn escalating anti-Semitism in our country and both parties and media to loudly denounce virus of Jew-hatred on social media and in the real world.”

B’nai B’rith International similarly tweeted, “Deeply concerned to learn that a fire at Univ. of Delaware’s Chabad center was ruled an arson. This follows the Chabad in Portland, OR catching fire twice in one week. The growing trend in violence against Jewish institutions is disturbing and must stop.”

The American Jewish Committee also tweeted, “The Chabad at @UDelaware
arson is a devastating attack on a beloved Jewish campus center. We are grateful for President Assanis’s support for the UD Jewish community and his solidarity during this challenging time.”

Alums for Campus Fairness also said in a statement, “Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF) is outraged and appalled by the recent antisemitic incident at the University of Delaware, in which a fire at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life (Chabad at UD) has been ruled arson. ACF will not stand by as Jewish spaces at our alma mater are targeted.”

University of Delaware students and alumni set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help repair the Chabad.

“Please consider donating whatever you can to help contribute to fixing the damages caused by the fire,” the GoFundMe page stated. “The little blue house, which we students called home, will be missed, but it is time to give back and rebuild what we have lost.”

As of this writing, the GoFundMe page has raised nearly $110,000.

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