The head of the University of California Hastings College of the Law sent an angry letter to students and faculty Wednesday, after the attempted destruction of a Jewish symbol in the school's residence hall.
NBC Bay Area reports that "Jewish student who identified himself only as Jacob said he was the target" of the alleged hate crime, saying he returned to his room at the college's McAllister Tower following spring break, to discover that the mezuzah hanging outside his doorway had been lit on fire.
A mezuzah is a piece of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah (the central reference of Judaism) that's typically held in a decorative case and placed on the doorframe of Jewish homes. (In some Jewish homes, they're also placed on the doorway to every room, but for most folks the front doorway will do.)
KRON 4 reports that the crime was reported to school officials on Monday, but "when exactly the scroll was burned is still under investigation by police." According to the Chron, "It’s suspected the vandalism might have been committed Sunday, the Jewish holiday Purim."
According to NBC, "The building is accessible only to the students who live there or visit as guests," narrowing the number of people who could have committed the act.
Jacob tells NBC that the defacement is "a lot more hurtful than they may have thought it was," but that "after the numerous bomb threats we’ve received throughout the country, it wasn’t so surprising that it happened."
Hastings spokesperson Alex Shapiro tells Bay City News that "he’s never heard of a mezuzah on campus being burned or any similar type of incident in the six years he’s been with the college."
"When an incident is reported like this, it’s something we all have to take a look at, make sure we figure out what happened and hold whoever is responsible responsible," Shapiro told NBC. The Examiner reports that UCSF police are investigating, quoting Captain Jim Brock as saying that “We did go down and take a vandalism report, and we’re currently investigating the matter." People with information on the case are asked to call UCSF's police investigations unit at (415) 476-1414.
UC Hastings Chancellor David Faigman the below letter to students, faculty and staff Wednesday morning, condemning the vandalism and urging people with information on the case to come forward:
UCSF Police are investigating a profoundly disturbing incident that occurred this past week in the Hastings Tower.
In what appears to be a cowardly act of anti-Semitism, someone partially burned the mezuzah on the doorframe of a UC Hastings student. This matter is under investigation and we hope to identify the perpetrator quickly. If you have any information about this incident, please contact UCSF Police or my office.
I am deeply troubled by the possible implications of such an act on our campus. We will not tolerate hateful actions of any sort against members of our community. UC Hastings is dedicated to the principals of diversity and inclusion. Members of our community have a right to a safe educational environment and we will do everything we can to ensure the safety and security of all.
Jacob tells NBC that he hopes the person responsible will do some soul searching, saying "It’s sad to see a rise in hate crimes."
"If you want to have a conversation, come talk to me. It's so cowardly to burn something and run away."