Catholic students offer support after arson at University of Delaware Jewish center

Denver Newsroom, Sep 3, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- The Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Newark, Delaware was damaged by arson in the late evening hours of Aug. 25. The building, which serves Jewish students of the University of Delaware, was unoccupied at the time, and no one was hurt.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office has ruled the blaze to be arson, adding that the motive of the fire remains under investigation. The assistant state fire marshal initially estimated the damage at some $200,000.

Father Tim McIntire, OSFS, pastor of St. Thomas More Oratory and chaplain at the University of Delaware's Catholic Campus Ministry, told CNA that his church, which is located just across campus from the Chabad Center, took up a second collection at Sunday Mass to raise money for their neighbors.

He said the fire greatly upset many of the Catholic university students who attend the Oratory, who are now eager to help the Chabad Center get back on its feet. The center serves between 100-200 Jewish students regularly.

"It just continues this streak of attacks on our Judeo-Christian heritage; Churches being burned, statues being destroyed and vandalized. I find it really sickening," McIntire commented, referring to the spate of attacks against churches and art across the US in recent months. 

The Oratory reached out to the Chabad Center via email and telephone soon after the fire, McIntire said. Although they haven't yet received a response from the rabbi, he said they plan to send over the check for the Center to use as they see fit in their rebuilding efforts.

McIntire also said he had told the rabbi that they are welcome to use space in the Oratory building, if necessary, until their building is usable.

Chabad is a Hasidic movement of Judaism. The Chabad Center in Newark is not university-owned, but the university’s president offered support to the campus’ Jewish community in an Aug. 26 message.

“Respect for others is a key value at the University of Delaware, and we condemn anyone who would seek to harm any part of our Blue Hen family,” President Dennis Assanis and Vice President for Student Life José-Luis Riera said Aug. 26.

“We stand firmly with our friends in the Jewish community at this difficult time.”

According to another Jewish student organization at the university, there are about 2,250 undergraduate Jewish students at UD, making up about 13% of the undergraduate population. UD has three registered student organizations serving Jewish students.

Several online fundraisers, including a GoFundMe set up by the Students of Chabad UD, have to date raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from more than 8,700 donors across the country to rebuild the Center.

Newark officials confirmed this week that they are investigating several intentional fires set in the city over the past few weeks. These include the fire at the Chabad Center, as well as a townhouse under construction that was set alight, and several trash fires.

Another Chabad Center for Jewish Life, located in Portland, Oregon, was damaged in a fire Aug. 19, but authorities have not declared that fire an arson.

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