3 men damage ‘sacred’ Jewish structure at Miami University’s Hillel: VIDEO

The men have turned themselves in, officials say.
Three men have allegedly turned themselves in after vandalizing and toppling a Jewish...
Three men have allegedly turned themselves in after vandalizing and toppling a Jewish religious structure off-campus at Miami University.(WXIX)
Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 6:44 PM EDT
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OXFORD, Ohio (WXIX) - Three people are caught on surveillance camera upending a Jewish religious structure outside the Hillel building at Miami University.

It happened on Oct. 15 around 3 a.m., according to an Oxford PD incident report.

The Hillel building is located on Walnut Street a block West of Campus Avenue and a block south of High Street.

The suspects trespassed into the backyard of the Hillel building and pushed the structure, called a Sukkah, over on it side, which caused it to collapse, per the report.

A Sukkah is a temporary structure constructed for use during the week-long Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. The festival, according to Jewish religious texts, commemorates God providing for the Israelites in the wilderness after they were freed from slavery in Egypt.

Sukkahs are traditionally made of wood and cloth sometimes adorned with branches and other autumnal decorations.

The suspects, as shown in Hillel surveillance video footage obtained by police, entered into the Sukkah before pushing it over.

The police report notes the Sukkah had suffered no apparent damage prior to the incident.

An Oxford police spokesperson says the surveillance video is being withheld due to the ongoing investigation. Hillel, however, posted their surveillance video to social media.

It is with a heavy heart that I write to share an update about a very upsetting incident that occurred at Hillel at Miami University this past weekend. At around 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, three young men hopped our Hillel’s fence and intentionally threw our Sukkah to the ground. The incident was captured by our security cameras, and is currently being reviewed by the Oxford Police Department with the goal of identifying the perpetrators. The desecration and vandalization of this ritual item and the damage done to our Sukkah is distressing enough. While (thankfully) we have an extra Sukkah, what has shaken our students and staff to the core and left me with a pit at the bottom of my stomach is the complete violation of our property, and of our sacred space. Watching these three young men circle the Sukkah, enter the Sukkah (where they encountered Hebrew prayers on the walls), and then intentionally decide to destroy the Sukkah is simply devastating to watch. There is no other word. While we don’t yet know the motivation or the individuals involved, we will do everything in our power to work with the administration and local law enforcement to identify the perpetrators. We have filed a report with the Oxford Police Department, who is reviewing the security footage and investigating the incident. We have also filed an incident report with the regional office of the ADL Cleveland, and spoken with President Crawford’s office directly to alert the administration about this act of vandalism. I am attaching pictures of the perpetrators to this letter and will be posting them on our social media as well. If you have any knowledge of who these three are, please reach out to the Hillel at Miami office (513) 523-5190 or to the Oxford Police Department at (513) 524-5240. To our students: Know that we are here for you, 24/7. If you need a place to decompress, discuss what has occurred, or just relax and have someone to talk to, our doors are open. Our Sukkah may be broken. But our spirit is anything but. As upsetting as this incident has been, I feel so uplifted by the wonderful students and staff who have pride in our Jewish community, in our university, and in our Hillel – and no one and no act of vandalism can take that away. Love & Honor, Whitney Fisch, MSW Executive Director Hillel at Miami

Posted by Hillel: Miami University on Friday, October 21, 2022

Hillel Executive Director Whitney Fisch in a written statement said the suspects violated a “sacred space” and called the experience “devastating.”

The suspects, all male, have since confessed and are now part of two ongoing investigations conducted by Miami University PD and Oxford PD, Fisch says.

Miami University President Gregory Crawford penned a letter to students dated Oct. 21 seeking to “reaffirm that Miami University does not tolerate acts of vandalism, violence, or hate. We are a community committed to inclusion and tolerance.”

Crawford continued: “Many Miami community members, particularly Jewish community members, may be understandably distressed and feel unsafe after learning about this incident. We are committed to every Jewish student, faculty, and staff feeling welcome and included as part of the Miami community. As a university, Miami is committed to a safe environment for all students, faculty, and staff regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background. We condemn the vandalism and desecration of the Sukkah, and all acts of vandalism and hate.”

The alleged vandalism comes as anti-Semitic incidents appear to be increasing in the United States.

An Anti-Defamation League study found 2,717 anti-Semitic incidents of assault, harassments and vandalism reported in 2021, a 34 percent increase from 2020 and the highest count since ADL began tracking such incidents in 1979.

Incidents of vandalism were up 14 percent from 2020. Incidents at Jewish institutions were up 61 percent from 2020.

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt noted it’s difficult to pinpoint what’s underlying the increase.

“But we do know,” he said, “that Jews are experiencing more anti-Semitic incidents than we have in this country in at least 40 years, and that’s a deeply troubling indicator of larger societal fissures.”

The vandalism at Miami University’s Hillel also tracks closely with the leak of a Kanye West interview in which he voiced anti-Semitic views.

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