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Jewish Religious Structure at UPenn Targeted by Vandalism

An unknown individual vandalized a religious structure belonging to Chabad at UPenn on Monday night.

The vandalism occurred at an open lot across the street from Chabad at UPenn’s Lubavitch House, where several sukkah structures were set up in preparation for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. There is no known footage or witnesses of the incident, Chabad Rabbi Levi Haskelevich told The Daily Pennsylvanian. StopAntisemitism shared an image of the incident to Twitter.

Penn Police noticed the incident while on patrol and subsequently notified Chabad, according to a statement from the Division of Public Safety. The statement said that no antisemitic connotation has been identified. 

“The Division of Public Safety worked with multiple law enforcement partners to review the graphic,” the statement reads. “No connections to any antisemitic meaning or group have been identified.”

In response to the vandalism, Chabad House held an event for students to paint over the graffiti on Wednesday evening. Eight students attended the event, spray painting “Happy Sukkot” in celebration of the holiday that will begin on Sept. 29. 

Haskelevich told the DP that he wanted to give students “complete artistic license” to “make something more beautiful” out of the incident. There are plans for students involved with the Jewish Heritage Programs to add to the artwork on Friday, he added. 

“The message is that there are challenges that each of us will have, and we should embrace those things,” Haskelevich said. “Try to transform them into positive energy rather than letting them put us down.”

Students who attended the painting event emphasized that it was a moment of “collective resilience” for Penn’s Jewish community, particularly following recent unrelated antisemitic incidents around campus. 

“The way we came together after this incident is a testament to the resilient attitude that we find in every adversity we face,” College senior and former Chabad President Jake Frank said. “We’re not looking to point fingers at anyone; we’re just trying to spread positivity.”

The opportunity to paint was also a significant moment of community building for Jewish students from different backgrounds, College and Wharton sophomore and Chabad board member Justin Shnayder added.

“The Jewish community is diverse, so being able to collectively unify all these different communities through painting was really beautiful,” Shnayder said. “I really appreciate that we were able to come together as one community.”

Last week, an unknown individual entered Penn Hillel, shouting “antisemitic obscenities” and knocking over furniture. Penn administrators also announced the discovery of a swastika painted in the spray room in Meyerson Hall. Following these incidents, Penn administrators released a statement condemning these antisemitic acts.

Chabad at Penn is a Jewish campus organization which offers “Shabbat, holiday and other educational, social, religious programs,” according to its website.

Source: https://www.thedp.com/article/2023/09/penn-chabad-sukkah-vandalism