Members of UC Berkeley’s chapter of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi outside their house on Piedmont Avenue in Berkeley. Credit: Instagram

Alpha Epsilon Pi, UC Berkeley’s sole Jewish fraternity, is no longer convinced that the shellfish dumped on its property early Saturday was an act of antisemitic vandalism. 

This story first appeared on J. The Jewish News of California

The fraternity, the university and police have learned that AEPi’s house wasn’t the only target of the early morning incident, they all confirmed. And “at least some of the people who perpetrated this act have come forward to our chapter’s leadership and apologized for their actions,” the Berkeley chapter of AEPi said in a statement Thursday.

“Over the course of the last few days, it has become known that at least one other fraternity was similarly vandalized though not because of antisemitism,” the statement said.

“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 AEPi 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 Berkeley Police Department, which wrote in an email early Wednesday that it was investigating the matter as a hate crime “due to the nature of the incident,” changed course on Thursday. 

“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 to J. “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.”

Fourteen UC Berkeley fraternities were contacted on Thursday for this story and one responded. Chi Psi, which is located on Piedmont Avenue, the same street as AEPi, said that no one dumped shellfish on its property.

The incident at AEPi 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 and viewed the dumping of the shellfish, a food explicitly forbidden under Jewish dietary law, as an “act of antisemitic vandalism.”

Gershon-Friedberg couldn’t immediately be reached Thursday.

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.”

In AEPi’s Thursday statement, the fraternity leaders said they welcomed the “act of contrition” from the alleged perpetrators “and look forward to working with them and the entire Berkeley community to use this moment as a catalyst for good.”

AEPi will host a community-wide event in the coming weeks to educate people about antisemitism and to raise funds for the Anti-Defamation League and the AEPi Antisemitism Response Center, an initiative to teach Jewish leaders on campuses worldwide how to fight hate.

Said the fraternity in Thursday’s statement, “We hope to help our campus heal and move forward.”