(March 10, 2020 / JNS) In the early hours on Saturday morning, George Washington University in Washington, D.C., quarantined 30 students who attended this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference, held nearby from March 1-3—only to reverse the decision less than 12 hours later as the student attendees have since been targeted by anti-Semitism.
The GWU decision came amid a statement from AIPAC that two conference attendees had tested positive for coronavirus.
In a statement on Saturday, Kathleen Fox, GWU’s assistant vice president of health and security, stated “there is no identifiable risk to the community from the conference.”
However, “out of an abundance of caution, GW assisted those students’ ability to self-quarantine overnight,” she said. “We have since received updated information.”
“There has been a determination by public-health experts that the two people at the conference did not present symptoms during their visit to D.C.,” continued Fox. “The current information indicates that both cases have no identifiable risk for anyone exposed to them at the conference. After conferring with DC Department of Health and GW’s public-health experts, we have determined that there is no current need for those students who attended to continue to self-quarantine.”
In the aftermath of the situation, some students have been harassed in person and on social media with anti-Semitic messages.
Blake Flayton, a sophomore, tweeted on Sunday that he was “attacked for being a Jew at GW this weekend.”
Flayton went on to say that he was wearing his kipah outside and followed by “a group of boys.”
“When they passed me, one of them obviously turned around and saw my kipah. He then started yelling ‘Oh! Yahood! Yahoodi! We’ve got a yahood over here’ and everyone started laughing. One of them started yelling ‘you produced it! You produced it! You started it!’ he tweeted.
In response to a tweet about the students getting quarantined, Bryce Maples, a sophomore, replied, “So your [sic] telling me I’m going to get Corona virus because some Zionists mom tried to speak to the manager of pandemics.”
So your telling me I’m going to get Corona virus because some Zionists mom tried to speak to the manager of pandemics
— Bryce Maples????????????????(@fakeBryceMaples) March 8, 2020
“A Wednesday midterm got moved to a take home exam due online Friday because of the yt supremacists that almost brought corona to GW,” tweeted a GW student who goes by “Romy Holiday.” (JNS was unable to verify the name behind the account, but was told by Flayton that the person behind the account attends GW.)
A Wednesday midterm got moved to a take home exam due online Friday because of the yt supremacists that almost brought corona to GW ????
— bernie bro romy ????????♂️ (@romyholiday) March 8, 2020
GW Hillel gave the university the benefit of the doubt over its handling of the situation and expressed sympathy towards the Jewish students.
“We appreciate the university’s commitment to ensure the safety and well-being of the campus community and its decision to revisit the self-quarantine of GW students who attended the AIPAC conference based on the recommendations of the DC Department of Health,” GW Hillel assistant director Rabbi Daniel Novick told JNS.
“We recognize that in this fast-moving situation; all of us are working with the best available information at the time and have only the best intentions as decisions are being made,” he continued. “Part of GW Hillel’s mission is ensuring Jewish students are not and do not feel targeted or isolated on campus, and we will continue to work with our university and community partners to ensure that our students feel safe on campus.”
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