Young vandals overturn Hillel’s sukkah at Miami University in Ohio

After Hillel releases security video, three men confess to the act

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

In an email to its constituents Friday morning, Oct. 21, the Hillel at Miami University in Oxford released security camera video of three young men intentionally overturning its sukkah just before 2 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15.

Hours after MU Hillel distributed the security video, three young men came forward and admitted to perpetrating the act.

The university and Oxford City Police are conducting investigations into the incident and haven’t yet released the identities of the men.

According to MU Hillel Executive Director Whitney Fisch, three young men jumped the Hillel building’s fence Oct. 15. She said in the email with the security video that the Oxford Police Department was reviewing the video to identify the perpetrators.

“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,” Fisch added in the Oct. 21 email.

The seven-day Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot commemorates the huts the ancient Israelites lived in during their 40 years in the desert before entering the Promised Land. Jewish households and institutions erect sukkahs — temporary huts — and eat meals in them over the festival. Oct. 15, also Shabbat, marked the sixth day of Sukkot.

MU Hillel Exec. Dir. Whitney Fisch

“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,” Fisch wrote.

According to MU Hillel, approximately 1,000 Jewish students attend the university.

Fisch sent the Oct. 21 email announcing the vandalism along with the security video as MU Hillel was getting ready for its Family Weekend Shabbat.

“I find comfort in knowing that the pride our Hillel at Miami community feels for its Jewishness cannot and will not be broken.”

Minutes before the Family Weekend Shabbat began Friday night with 50 students and their families, “three young men admitted to being the three individuals from our security footage who desecrated our sukkah,” Fisch wrote in a follow-up email to the MU Hillel community on Oct. 24.

“We cannot offer any more information on the identities or motivation as there are two ongoing investigations taking place both at the university level and with Oxford City Police,” she continued.

Miami University President Gregory P. Crawford, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion Cristina Alcalde, and Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Elizabeth Reitz Mullenix emailed a statement to the Miami University community on the afternoon of Oct. 21 that the university “does not tolerate acts of vandalism, violence, or hate.”

“Many Miami community members, particularly Jewish community members, may be understandably distressed and feel unsafe after learning about this incident,” the statement continued. “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 administrators also announced that Hillel and MU’s Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion would co-host a Shabbat of Love and Honor at Hillel at Miami on Friday, Oct. 28, 6-8 p.m. and invited the Miami community to attend.

To view the security footage of the MU Hillel sukkah being overturned, click here.

To read the complete November 2022 Dayton Jewish Observer, click here.

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