University professor arrested for stealing pro-Israel signs from synagogue property

The Drexel University professor said the signs were ‘representative of genocide’


Pro-Palestinian students and faculty at Drexel University (Credit: MATTHEW HATCHER/AFP via Getty Images)

A university professor has been arrested after allegedly participating in the theft of property belonging to a synagogue in a suburb outside Philadelphia, according to a local report.

Mariana Chilton, 56, a professor of health management and policy at Drexel University, has been accused of being a getaway driver for two accomplices – Sarah Prickett, 39, and Sam Penn, 25 – after they trespassed and absconded with pro-Israel signs from outside the Main Line Reform Temple in Lower Merion Township.

A Philadelphia police officer who happened to be driving through the area noticed Chilton’s car, a white Honda CRV, stopped at a curb outside the synagogue, with Prickett and Penn walking towards it. The officer’s suspicions were already raised after reports of religious signs being stolen and defaced in Lower Merion Township, and on approaching the car the officer spotted several pro-Israel signs inside the vehicle.

The stolen signs had the words “MLRT Stands with Israel”, “We Stand With Israel”, and one that stated, “Our Community Stands With Israel”.

Chilton told police they were taking them “because we feel like it is a representative of genocide”, after being caught in the act.

When the officer informed the women that the signs belonged to the temple, Chilton first offered to “just put them back”. After the officer asked them for identification, the three women allegedly became uncooperative and refused to comply with lawful orders, according to a local NBC report.

Chilton, Prickett and Penn were all arrested in connection with the incident, which occurred in November. Chilton was charged with several offences including driving without a license in an unregistered vehicle, criminal trespass, conspiracy and theft.

Chilton, who in addition to being a professor is the director of Dornsife’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities, a research and advocacy centre developing solutions to food insecurity, is believed to have travelled to the Philadelphia suburbs from her home in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, to carry out the alleged theft.

A spokesperson for Drexel University said professor Chilton has been placed on administrative leave while the university “evaluates all the circumstances surrounding the allegations in light of relevant policies while also assessing the impact on Drexel’s educational program.

“While Professor Chilton is entitled to the presumption of innocence, the alleged actions for which she has been criminally charged are deeply troubling,” the university said.

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