Latest update: April 29th, 2014
See UPDATE at the bottom of the article.
“The worst nightmare of any Jewish college student’s life” is how one student described what she experienced this past weekend, April 26-27, at an off-campus housing apartment complex right near the University of Central Florida, in Orlando.
The story began somewhat earlier, but without realizing there would be more, student A – a 21 year old social work student who does not want her name or other identifying information used, for obvious reasons – did not put the initial incident down to an anti-Semitic vendetta. Now she does.
Three weeks ago, A’s mezuzah was ripped off her doorway. The mezuzah was broken and left on the ground in her hallway. Then this week, after Shabbat ended, A was showing one of her friends who lives several floors below her what happened with her mezuzah. That friend then told her there was more to the story.
A’s friend told her that as he was walking in from the garage on his floor, he saw a swastika on the wall. And then he and another friend saw two more swastikas. They also had been carved onto the walls, apparently using a key to make the engraving.
The next morning, Sunday, April 27 – Yom HaShoah – as A walked around the off-campus apartment complex, she found another 5 swastikas carved into walls.
Altogether, A and her friends found nine swastikas carved into the walls of their off-campus housing site.
The timing is gruesome. For someone or several people to carve swastikas into walls is beyond the pale, but to do it during the weekend of Yom HaShoah is particularly henious.
Also, because this is finals week for UCF students, the anti-Semitic acts are in yet another way offensive. At a time when all students should be able to simply focus on their studies, and not on malicious religious threats, it has a triply anti-Semitic impact.
If there is a positive angle to this story, it is that A and quite a few of her friends reported the anti-Semitic graffiti to the housing complex management and to the local police. They are continuing to pursue avenues, hoping that the culprits are apprehended and dealt with appropriately.
“I was not about to sit here and pretend like this was a joke because I and many others did not take it as a joke” A told The Jewish Press.
The police told the concerned students that they cannot classify what happened as a hate crime because a specific person wasn’t targeted. The management of the apartment complex said because they have no cameras in the hallway they won’t be able to prove who did it. The management also told A and the other students who complained that it is just vandalism and ignorance.
But that is not how A sees what happened.
“I shouldn’t have to walk into my apartment complex and see something that makes me feel unsafe. I do not know if this person knows what these marks mean, but to me they show that this individual has some form of hatred and dislike for the Jewish people.”
A UCF sophomore political science major who observed the swastika carvings also was unwilling to put down the hate messages as mere vandalism.
Living in a college setting with a diverse student population, I would hope that students would have respect for religions and cultures. This depiction of a World War II image that truly affects Jewish students and students of other cultures who were negatively impacted by the tragedy of the Holocaust is horrifying.
The management of the building is clearing away the messages – the evidence of anti-Semitism. The messages may be removed, but dealing with it as if there is no hostile significance and failing to take the matter as a serious threat will only encourage more such acts.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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