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Two women charged with ethnic intimidation for vandalizing Ohio State's Jewish student center

Two women were charged with several misdemeanor offenses for allegedly vandalizing the Ohio State University chapter of Hillel, a Jewish student organization.

Oumaima Amri, 21 and Lena Ahmad Shabeneh, 19, were charged with misdemeanor ethnic intimidation, theft, criminal trespassing and criminal mischief. If convicted, the two women face up to 180 days in jail and $2,000 in fines, according to a press release from Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein's office. University officials say the women are not OSU students.

Amri and Shabeneh allegedly vandalized Israeli flags in the lobby and shouted anti-Israel statements and threats on Nov. 9.

Hillel International has about 850 chapters at colleges and universities around the world.

Klein told WOSU Tuesday that hate has no home in Columbus and cited hate crimes rising against members of the Jewish, Muslim and LGBTQIA+ communities.

"Actions against people based on what they're religion is, how they're born or who they are is not going to be tolerated," Klein said.

Klein said his office wanted to send a message that this conduct has no home in Columbus.

OSU Hillel issued a statement and said the organization welcomes the announcement about the charges. "These charges send a strong statement that hate-fueled attacks are completely unacceptable," the statement said.

The statement said the organization will focus on supporting Jewish students as they express their Jewish identities and stand in solidarity with Israel.

Klein said he thinks people will "think twice" about acting like this in the future.

"Your actions are going to have consequences. We live in a place that we respect our neighbors, that we want to make sure our neighbors are safe," Klein said. "Folks are going to think twice about engaging in criminal conduct based on someone's religious belief... whether you're Jewish or Muslim."

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.