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Sukkah Damaged Amid Anti-Semitic Incident Investigation

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

By Izzy Silverman

In celebration of the Jewish holiday, Sukkot, Hillels of Westchester, a Jewish campus organization, was busy building the Purchase community their very own Sukkah (a hut) which was damaged shortly after its construction. This follows an anti-Semitic incident last week that occurred in the Music Building.

Damage done to the Sukkah (Photo by: Izzy Silverman)

On Thursday, Sept. 28, this Sukkah was found damaged with an anonymous letter of apology. This incident was reported to UPD (University Police Department).

This year, from the sundown of Sept. 29 to the sundown of Oct. 6, the Jewish community is observing Sukkot. Sukkot is a joyful holiday meant to bring together families, friends, and communities. It celebrates the fall harvest, as well as commemorates the 40 years they spent in the desert after escaping slavery in Egypt. On this holiday, many re-create the Sukkahs used as temporary shelters by the Jewish people during their pilgrimage through the desert to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Most of the damage done to the Sukkah hut was on the roof and the roof support, both of which were removed.

Damage done to the Sukkah (Photo by: Izzy Silverman)

“We are currently investigating and taking it very seriously, especially in light of last week’s incident,” stated the email sent out by UPD*.

UPD failed to respond in a timely fashion to a request for a follow up comment.

In response to the incident, @hillelatpc (Hillel at SUNY Purchase’s instagram), made a post inviting the Purchase community, especially the individuals responsible, to engage in the Jewish principle of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) by “helping us rebuild on Sunday, Oct. 1 at [noon] in the courtyard outside the Hub (Campus Center North).”

“Taking last week’s incident into account this cannot be brushed aside, accident or not. Each of us bring unique identities with us to campus, and we are all here for the purpose of learning and personal growth. None of us should ever feel unsafe while pursuing that,” said Esti Heller, Hillel at Purchase’s President.

Damage done to the Sukkah (Photo by: Izzy Silverman)

The damage to the Sukkot is the second anti-Semetic related incident to occur on campus this semester.

Last week, on Sept. 20, “an Israeli national flag was defaced with anti-Semitic language,” stated an email sent out by UPD. The vandalism of the Israeli national flag is being investigated as a hate crime. In a separate instagram post made by @hillelatpc regarding the prior incident, they said that “Hillel will not stand for this despicable accusation and will continue to do everything in our power to protect and support Jewish students on campus.”

UPD did not return this reporter’s inquiry for comment.

In a display of ally ship, the American-Muslim Club (AMC) has given their remaining funds, $50, to Hillel to support their teaching incentives and events.

"Due a decline in enrollment this year, the total funds to support clubs is a drastically smaller budget than clubs are used to. As AMC doesn't currently have an e-board or active club members, we can't fully operate as a club, and I didn't want it to go unused," wrote Aliya Bashir, a senior journalism and philosophy minor who was the president and cofounder of AMC and is the current Chair of Senate for the PSGA (Purchase Student Government Association) in an Instagram post (@americanmuslimclubpc).

"I wanted this to demonstrate to non-Jewish students on campus that showing kindness and support to others in your community is crucial to creating a safer environment for everyone," Bashir continued.

“I invite every person, club, identity group, and future friends and allies to partner together this year to learn with open hearts and minds about one another,” Heller said. “To think, live and engage wide open. We must use this as an opportunity to educate ourselves about antisemitism and grow as people.”

Members of Hillels of Westchester and Hillel at Purchase before their Sukkah hut was damaged (Photo by: Donna Cornachio)

In an email sent out by the UPD, they ask that the people responsible come forward and that any information regarding the incident should be forwarded to or by calling 914-251-6900.

*On Sept. 29, UPD sent an email stating: "We have identified two students who are responsible for damaging the Sukkah earlier this week. This is still an open investigation and I look forward to providing additional information when the case has been closed.

While it is too early to draw final conclusions, at this point our investigation has not identified cause to believe that this incident was committed due to a belief or perception regarding race, or religion."

The incident in the Music Building is still being investigated.



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