3 Miami students charged after damaging Jewish religious structure
OXFORD, Ohio (WXIX) - Three students are charged with vandalism after damaging a Jewish religious structure called a Sukkah outside the Hillel building at Miami University on Oct. 15, Oxford police say.
Hillel is a Jewish campus organization that is located on Walnut Street a block west of Campus Avenue and a block south of High Street.
Police say the surveillance video from early that morning shows the students entering the backyard at Hillel, looking at the Sukkah and pushing it over before running away.
The suspects came forward and admitted their actions, according to a news release from the Oxford Police Department.
Police say their investigation determined there was no religious bias involved with the crime.
“While the suspects in this case did not understand that they were damaging a religious symbol, the effects were felt by the Jewish community,” the news release said.
Police say 20-year-old Kevin Ladriere, 20-year-old Eli Lauger, and 19-year-old Santiago Arenas, are charged with vandalism, which is a felony due to the total cost of the damage, which exceeded $1,000.
Hillel posted their surveillance video of the incident to social media.
Hillel Executive Director Whitney Fisch in a written statement said the suspects violated a “sacred space” and called the experience “devastating.”
Miami University President Gregory Crawford wrote a letter to students dated Oct. 21 which said, in part, “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.”
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.
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