Penn police called FBI to help investigate threatening antisemitic emails

The threats come amid heightened tensions on US college campuses and at Penn, in particular, amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.



The University of Pennsylvania said the FBI is investigating after some of its staff recently received threatening antisemitic emails.

Penn President Liz Magill said in a letter to the university community Monday that some staff members got “vile disturbing antisemitic emails threatening violence against members of our Jewish community.” She said Penn police and the FBI are investigating this as a potential hate crime.

The alleged threats named Penn Hillel, a campus Jewish organization; and Lauder College House, a house named for the Lauder family, which has been an important donor to the university.

Authorities swept both sites and found no credible threat, Magill said. Penn’s safety department consulted with federal investigators to sweep the Penn Hillel building multiple times, including with a bomb sniffing dog unit, according to a statement from Penn Hillel on Instagram. Campus police will remain on site, and have increased security presence throughout the campus.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The reported threats come a week after the school announced a plan to fight antisemitism and after several prominent donors, including Ronald Lauder, criticized the school’s response to antisemitism.

In late September, the university hosted a Palestinian literature gathering, which became controversial after it included speakers that critics say have a history of antisemitic remarks, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Not long after, the university said it found a swastika spray painted on the floor of a campus building, and vandalism at Penn Hillel, as reported by the Daily Pennsylvanian, the independent student media outlet.

Penn’s plan includes recruiting an expert with expertise in preventing and responding to antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Get the WHYY app!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal