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CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE : Ceremonial Jewish Hut Is Defaced

Signs and flyers that decorated a ceremonial hut used for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot were defaced with anti-Semitic writing and swastikas at Cal State Northridge last week, a representative of the campus Hillel Jewish Student Center said.

The Sukkot hut is a “symbol of peace and fragility of life” and the people who are responsible for the vandalism are “doing it out of weakness and ignorance,” said the Hillel center’s Rabbi Jerrold Goldstein.

Mary Cronopulos-Raz, coordinator of student discipline and assistant dean of students, said the incident was reported to her Monday morning by Gaby Kaminski, a CSUN student and member of Hillel. Cronopulos-Raz, in turn, called campus police .

Campus Police Lt. Mark Hissong said the anti-Semitic remarks on the hut were discovered at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

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Hissong added that the Hillel banner that hung from the hut was torn down and that a star drawn on one sign had a slash through it.

Kaminski, also a campus chairwoman of the United Jewish Fund, said she went to the hut Monday morning to check on some flyers the fund had donated for decorations and found that most had been torn down or defaced.

The Sukkot hut is built according to directions outlined in the Bible. The tradition dates back 3,000 years to a time when the Jews’ ancestors wandered the desert, Goldstein said.

“The Jews were instructed to live in temporary booths . . . until they got to the Promised Land,” Goldstein said. Since that time, Jews have continued to build huts during the second week of every new year to remind Jews of their history, weaknesses and the homeless.

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Cronopulos-Raz said if it is found that the person responsible for the vandalism is a student, that person will be charged with a student-conduct code violation, she said. Hissong said there are no suspects in the case.

“It’s very frightening that people can do things like that. In a city with a large Jewish population, we think we’re immune to things like that,” said Michelle Shapiro, another Hillel member.

Michael Katz, Hillel’s associate director, said he believes the vandalism was a spur-of-the-moment action and that Hillel is not taking any special precautionary measures because of it. “You can’t live your life in fear,” he said.

Roberta Venger, associate director of the Los Angeles B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League, said that there has been “a dramatic rise in campus bigotry.” A 1990 audit of incidents “showed a 36% increase over 1989 in anti-Semitic acts at U.S. colleges and universities,” she said.

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