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"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

Hillel of Silicon Valley Sukkah Burned by Arsonists

Posted by lchaimlover on October 4, 2007

burned sukkah

Hillel of Silicon Valley sukkah, with two walls partially burned away.

 We all know that a sukkah needs three walls and an opening, but who knew that neighbors of Hillel of Silicon Valley knew this as well? Last evening, unknown persons decided to help “air out” our sukkah, by setting it on fire. Hillel officials are calling this “mischevious damage and not related to any type of hate crime”, this marks the second time this year that the Hillel House has been vandalized. For a Hillel that is struggling to gain more exposure and support from the local community, and support the Jewish students of four college campuses in a house that measures in at 625 square feet, this has been a very unlucky start to 5768. Hillel International was once quoted as saying that Hillel of Silicon Valley had the hardest job of any Hillel in the country, and this rocky start only further supports that claim. Yet it was business as usual today at the Hillel House, students came in to raid the fridge, staff met with student leaders to plan new events, and the phone just kept ringing. At HSV, there is little time to be sad when students come in expecting support and a friendly face.

The cover to the brand new sukkah will need to be replaced completely and students of HSV will spend the last few days of Sukkot pondering how welcome they are on William Street.

If you have any information or would like to show your support, please contact Hillel of Silicon Valley at 408 286 6669.

Editor’s note: LchaimLover submitted this story before the khag started. I approved it for publication later.


29 Responses to “Hillel of Silicon Valley Sukkah Burned by Arsonists”

  1. yaman said

    How can this *not* be a hate crime?

  2. Oyster said

    Hi Yaman:

    From my unfortunate experience as a Jewish student at Berkeley, I can tell you exactly why.

    For it to be a hate crime, there has to be a spoken or written (communicated in some way) message of hate. Hate crimes amplify the sentencing if one is found guilty for such a crime, and are mandated to be reported to the Federal level.

    Even when two Chabadniks, dressed as ultra-orthodox Jews, were beaten up in front of the Rabbi’s house in Berkeley on the last day of the holy festival of Pesakh, it wasn’t considered a hate crime. Even though all things point to that, there was no communicated message of hate.

  3. Daniel Meyers said

    Actions of the hands speak a lot louder then spoken words about the character of perpetrator(s). Words can be responded to and possible change brought about, but sly, cowardice, action such as this speaks a thousand words yet remains mute to dialog or positive change. Dan

  4. AaronfromWG said

    Diversity is wonderful. Lets allow some more Islamists into our country so we can have a Sukkah burning every year. I guess its a multicultural event.

  5. AaronfromWG said

    You can kill someone because you hate his race but just don’t call him name because then you’ve crossed the line and done something REALLY BAD!

  6. yaman said

    Hillel should declare it what it is: a hate crime. Let the courts decide whether this legally constitutes its own narrow definition of a hate crime, but as far as the Jewish community, and the wider community in general is concerned, this should be considered a hate crime.

  7. yaman said

    AaronfromWG: I think there is a longer legacy and much richer history of violence against Jews and Jewish sights in the US amongst white supremacists than there is amongst Muslims.

  8. Concerned Jew said

    This is a hate crime. For anyone looking for the written message – it’s right there on the Sukkah.
    Whoever burned it did not burn just any kind of structure – he burned the one carrying the hebrew writings of the Sukkah.
    I think it’s time for Hillel to speak up: file a complaint with the police, organize a protest calling media attention.
    When will we speak up? When people are burnt ?
    We already feel insecure going to Simhat Torah tonight.

  9. Someone who cares said

    Please let’s not make assumptions about the origin of the people who committed this hate crime.
    Unfortunately, there are many groups capable of such acts besides muslims.
    The point is – we can’t let it go by without a response.
    Hillel and other Jewish and Israeli organizations in the bay should respond quickly.

  10. AaronfromWG said

    I bet it was the Vietnamese. J/K

    I have no idea who committed this crime but I do know that Jews are attacked on regular basis in Europe and the perpetrators are usually Muslims and not Europeans.

    To Yaman: White supremacist groups have a history of violence against Jews. The key word is “history”. We have to worry about who is presently seeking our destruction as a people. I’m not going to forget about the white supremacists but most of their activity is currently propaganda rather than violence. Racist propaganda does threaten us but it is not nearly as urgent an issue as open and almost accepted violence against Jews.

  11. Diane Fisher said

    This sad act may inspire people to become aware of the debate going on in our country about legislation addressing hate crimes.
    Last week the Senate passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, but the president may veto it. It expands the federal hate crimes law to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation or disability. The bill also includes $10 million in funding to help state and local agencies pay for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.
    I know this may sound unrelated, but a culture that doesn’t accurately identify hate crimes is a risk to all of us, including Jews who are targets of hate crimes.

  12. minsky said

    White supremacists, San Jose?! Give me a break. They’re afraid to show their white ass in San Jose’s “multicultural” public, let alone commit hate crimes. They’d be lynched.

    Some folks just don’t get it – Yaman.

    I don’t know who dun’it, but either it was deliberate, or deliberately aggresive.

    The only excuse, is if the bastards knew it was Jewish or not. But come on. Two acts of vandalism in a row, near a second rate university where most of the high-school drop-outs gather their anger into a little fist under the banner of Palestinian, anti-Isreali, anti-Jewish slogans?

    Hey they just happened to do it when the Jews just happened to put it up.

    This was very likely premeditated. They were too afraid to arson the Hillel building (that would merit investigations) so they took a middle way- send a message, but not strong enough to elicit community and university outrage.

    I put my money on premeditation. If this is not a hate crime, it is at least a political one, and presents a very real threat to our security.

    We don’t deserve such messages from anyone, and something needs to be done about it.

    I aint no Zionist, but burning our sukkhas deserves outrage, and appologies! For too long SJSU has all but marginalised Hillel. I want security! We get it in Istanbul and Singapore, we deserve it here, in the heart of our “tolerant” Bay Area.


    Fuck the scum that did this.

  13. Joe Malin said

    Well, this isn’t Europe. Stuff like this happens, but it could be for a variety of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with Judaism. It’s sad, to be sure, but the best way to deal with it is to have the police investigate it and meanwhile replace the walls.

  14. Why is Minsky such an idiot? said

    1. Why does Minsky say, “I aint no Zionist but….” What does your Zionism or lack there of have to do with someone else perpetrating a hate crime against a Jewish institution? We read your post the other week, it sucked. Move away.

    Why does Oy-Bay let you even speak anymore? You give us all a bad name.

    2. This was clearly a hate crime, and the community, Jewish and Non-Jewish, should come together for some kind of solidarity/”not in our town” moment. Is Hillel planning something?

    3. In case you couldn’t tell, I think Minsky is an idiot.

  15. Solomon said

    Burning a Jewish Sukkah is A HATE CRIME! SJPD should do a full investigation into burning a Jewish personal property. SJSU and City officials should receive a formal complain from Hillel. The Jewish students also should express outrage openly by public demonstration and invite SU and city officials. It is a crime against Jews and Israel. Let officials know about it and let the criminals to be punished. Also let Jewish culture be alive and celebrated. AM ISROEL HAI !!!


  16. bay area Israeli said

    The “hillel officials” are pathetic thinking that calling it a “mischevious damage” will lower tension. Haven’t we seen enough to learn not to give in to violence ? The Jewish leaders here must make a big scene of this hate crime and put up a demonstration.

  17. minsky said

    For “Why is Minsky Such an Idiot” Speaking of lack of brain power. I am not sure who gives us more of a bad name, someone stupid and insulting, or someone with unfavourable views?

    You’ve got to have your head stuck in the sand not to know, that 90% of the incidents on campuses are politically motivated, i.e. related to college pro-Palestinian/Islamic/ethnic activism. You a real moron eh?

    By the way, in moments like these, being divisive is seriously in bad taste, even harmful, it does reflect badly on all of us. You even Jewish? Or you some evangelical creep?


    I think a petition is in order for the entire bay area Jewish community, and we need this in the news, and the university needs to compensate through some kind of confidence building measures, and outreach into the Islamic-Left wing student community, i.e.

    REQUIRED student coursework on freedom of speech, democracy, women and minority rights and equality, freedom of conscience, and political expression.

  18. yaman said

    I don’t know where this Hillel is located or what the atmosphere/community is like there, so I can’t really evaluate what seems reasonable or possible. All I can say is that I do believe it’s clearly a hate crime, and that the only assumption we can make is that this was targeted against the Jewish community (which is reasonable given the circumstances, and which is necessary to make if we believe it’s a hate crime).

    As to the identity of the perpetrators, I would hope that people do not make uninformed assumptions or accusations, especially as this will 1) undermine the point of reacting to the hate crime, which is to diffuse this kind of stereotype/discrimination and 2) further inflame whatever tensions, real or perceived, might exist there.

    Hate crimes are meant to marginalize and intimidate a group of people. The proper way to respond to them is not to further marginalize yourselves or to marginalize others, but to secure community support (in the various forms it can take) to make it clear that nobody in the community will tolerate this kind of incident, against anybody.

    I hope that Hillel will act on this and not let it casually pass by.

  19. bay area Israeli said


    Being anti/no-zionist is the easy way out to escape the accusations of pro-palestinians, and define yourself as Jewish by faith only.
    Most people of the younger generation, who don’t believe in god, shaman, miracles, and other various hocus-pokus, define themselves Jewish by nationality. For them “no-zionist” is not an option, as Zionism is the central concept in Jewish nationality in the last century and more.

    It is consistent to go with the “hokus pokus” option, but rather surprising for someone who’s writing in a fairly intelligent way.

  20. AaronfromWG said

    To bay area israeli:
    “hokus pokus” has kept Jews Jewish for thousands of years and while I am a Zionist I don’t think it is what keeps our people whole. Lets not get too off topic.

  21. minsky said

    Ok, I am sorry, I didn’t mean to be the source of division on this. The reason I said “I am not a Zionist”, is in reference to my previous post, which may have put some people off to such a degree, that they believe I simply shouldn’t be part of the blog anymore. I resent this, because as Jew, I identify with all our tribulations, challenges, and debates. We are a community regardless of our disagreement. I wanted to emphasize this by saying that although I myself may be responsible for some virulent anti-Zionist vituperations, when I see an incident that I “assume” directly related to Israeli-Palestinian political disputes on campus, I stand behind Hillel, behind Jews, and yes, whether it makes immediate sense or not, behind Zionism. I was largely afraid of the inference some readers would make, that of all people I should think that since Hillel is mostly Zionist, it deserves what it gets.

    Now that I think about it, I don’t regret having made this disclaimer. Now that I see it, part of the reason these events take place, is due to moral laxity on the part of university public and liberal professors.

    The university needs to be held accountable for events of such kind. It is incumbent upon institutions in America (be it universities, police,) to protect our rights to be Jews, to be Zionists, pro or anti -Israeli (to be what we are) without paying for this with acts of intimidation. I see institutional inaction on this, as a near liberal conspiracy, to deprive Jews of our political rights. Trustees and directors need to stop excusing such attacks as a political confrontation, between pro-Israeli activist and anti-Zionist left/muslims/palestinians. This is a dangerous illusion they harbor, and we should work to dispel it. Its an illusion that blatantly condones attacks on Jewish institutions.

    Its a fight worth fighting.

  22. kneidalach said

    Let’s not get into personal arguments, shall we?

  23. bay area Israeli said

    I am a bit of topic, but it’s vaguely related and as long as it’s a civil discussion, what’s the harm ?
    I believe that Judaism without Zionism has a very slim chance of “holding water” in the future, except for these very extreme “neturei karta” (and who wants to be like them ?). This is due to the obvious world wide decline in belief.
    However, the converse is definitely not true and I did not imply it. There is definitely a place for tradition, holidays etc. even for Zionists like me. In fact, ever since moving to the US a few years back, we discovered a new wonderful flavor of religion, and I mean the conservative/reform movement.

    Minsky, it is lovely that you stand behind the Jews now. However, if you assist/ed anti-zionists causes which harm me personally, i.e. boycott of Israeli academia etc, I take it personally and hereby send you an electronic punch to the face. After all, we all agree violence must be acted upon.

  24. […] Famous Jewish [Porn] StarsHillel of Silicon Valley Sukkah Burned by ArsonistsI WANT…NAY I NEED TO BE […]

  25. I know it said

    I know for a fact, that this Hillel is not taking this lightly!!!

    The Police was already involved, together with some other agencies.
    It was even in the 10 PM news on Friday, channel 2, live footage of the Shabbat dinner they provide each week for the students. It appeared also on the Friday edition of the Mercury News journal, on the local San Jose State Univ. newspaper and other local Jewsih publications.

    During the Friday night a lot of community members and also non jewish community members showed up or send messages of support. A good way to show support is actually to call or email and ask what it is needed.

    By the way, formal complaint has been filed…

  26. Oyster said

    I Know It wrote: and other local Jewsih publications

    I don’t believe that this is true. I haven’t seen it in any other local Jewish publication. So far, I think only Oy Bay has been on this story.

    When I spoke to a friend from the J Weekly on Simchat Torah, he hadn’t even heard of either incident (UC Davis or SJSU).

  27. minsky said

    To Bay Area Isreali. I will be more than happy to accomodate your electronic punches in comments on my recent Zionism post… but not here.

  28. Dawn Brown said

    Thank you Diane Fisher for being a voice of reason in Silicon Valley, as usual. So often, “small” crimes escalate to bigger things and it is not just one faction of the community that is targeted. The burning of a sukkah this year, maybe burning of Hillel next year, or how about one of the other houses on campus of SJSU?

    As with any crime, targeting it as a hate crime elevates it to a higher level, ergo, potentially higher violence the next round. We ALL know it was most likely a hate crime (hey, there ARE stupid criminals out there who would just burn something they came across just because”), but until we know the full story, we will not know. For a while, the Henry Coe fire was thought to be an arsonist—turns out it was a teacher, who owns a cabin out there who tried to burn trash illegally. Stupid, yes. Hate crime level arson? No. Criminal stupidity—sure, but we don’t often lock people up for their brainless acts.

    How about getting the word out about ACCEPTING OTHERS? Hard to do in a college community, but if not now, then when?

  29. curl said

    Vigilance. A camera..a night watch… a trap.. It has happened before..and it will happen again. If it is the perpetrators you seek, be prepared to catch them. Make a point of it.

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