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Cops arrest man accused of vandalizing UF student Jewish center with antisemitic slurs

A 50-year-old man was arrested after police say he wrote antisemitic remarks at a Jewish student center outside the University of Florida late last month, authorities announced Friday. Gainesville police said he also sent threatening messages to several religious centers.

Geoffrey Alan Lush was charged with writing threats to kill or injure, and criminal mischief on a place of worship, police said in a news release. Records show that he remained behind bars in an Alachua County jail as of Friday afternoon on a $150,000 bond.

Around 6:15 p.m. Nov. 23, Lush left a threatening voicemail at the University of Florida Hillel, 2020 W University Ave., a Jewish student resource center, police said.

“If you do not value the lives of children then we do not value yours at all,” Lush said, according to investigators. “May you burn in the fires of hell for eternity. Every single one of you.”

Police said other religious centers “received similar messages” via voicemail and email on the same day.

“The phone number and email address utilized to leave messages to these religious centers ultimately revealed Lush as the owner,” police said.

Police said Lush expressed “similar beliefs” on his social media platforms — describing “other random acts of vandalism he performed on November 24.”

A banner supporting Israel at the Lubavitch Chabad Jewish Student & Community Center, located outside the University of Florida, was vandalized on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, the organization said.
A banner supporting Israel at the Lubavitch Chabad Jewish Student & Community Center, located outside the University of Florida, was vandalized on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, the organization said.

Vandalizing of the Jewish student center

Detectives say Lush also damaged a sign, a banner and a sidewalk at the Lubavitch Chabad Jewish Student & Community Center, 2021 NW Fifth Ave., in Gainesville on Nov. 24.

The incident at the off-campus location was recorded by the center’s security cameras.

On a banner supporting Israel following the deadly Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel and on a permanent fixture with the name of the organization, the vandal wrote with a black marker “child murders” and “burn in hell.” On the sidewalk, the person drew a star of David, a Judaic symbol, and wrote “David had no star.”

READ MORE: UF student Jewish center was vandalized with antisemitic slurs

Following an investigation into the vandalism and the threatening messages against religious centers in Gainesville, Lush was arrested Thursday evening.

“Antisemitism, hatred and bigotry of any type is never acceptable and must be called out in any form or when targeting any individual or group,” the Chabad center said on Facebook.

The vandalism at the Jewish student center happened the same day a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas began. As part of the seven-day truce, Hamas released more than 100 hostages of the 240 or so people it kidnapped during its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the Associated Press reported Friday. In exchange, Israel has freed 150 Palestinian prisoners, who also include women and children, some of whom have not been charged with a crime.

Israeli forces have killed over 13,300 Palestinians since the war began, about two-thirds of them women and minors, the Associated Press reported. Around 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly during the initial attack by Hamas. Nearly a million Palestinians have fled the north as Israeli forces intensified their attack.