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February 10, 2016 3:02 pm

Jewish U of Illinois Student Posts Youtube Condemnation of Chabad Menorah Vandals

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Surveillance footage of the vandalism at the University of Illinois. The two students involved in the vandalism were indefinitely suspended from the university. Photo: Screenshot.

Surveillance footage of the vandalism of a menorah at the University of Illinois led to the suspension of the perpetrators. Photo: Screenshot.

A Jewish University of Illinois student denounced the two vandals responsible for damaging a menorah on campus, the third such incident to place in less than a year.

“People don’t realize the seriousness, the gravity of doing something like this,” said David Kessler in a video posted Tuesday on YouTube. “To them it’s just like, ‘Oh, let’s go mess with the Jews.’ It’s like a funny thing.”

Kessler added that he thinks the vandals are “probably decent people and they don’t actually hate us.”

Surveillance video outside of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life at the university shows footage from Sunday of a woman breaking a branch off the menorah while a man holds down one of the others. They both laugh as the menorah breaks. According to reports in the Champaign News-Gazette, the woman was trying to unscrew a light bulb in the menorah and broke it.

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The Chicago Tribune said the two students are athletes at the university. Sophomore Ruby Fernandez-Rivera from Glendale, Calif., is a softball player; her male accomplice, who has not been named, is a gymnast. Rivera has been arrested and charged with criminal damage to property, according to ABC 7. The University of Illinois Police Department issued Fernandez-Rivera a notice to appear in court this month. The gymnast, who was with Rivera at the time of the vandalism, was not charged. Fernandez-Rivera has been indefinitely suspended from the university, while the other student has been suspended from the university’s next two gymnastics competitions.

Paul Kowalczyk, interim athletic director at the university, said in the statement that the two students sent letters of apology to the Chabad Center and will be required by the university to complete community service hours as part of their “internal disciplinary action.”

“We are disappointed by the actions early Sunday morning of two student athletes from softball and men’s gymnastics at the Chabad Jewish Center on campus and apologize for this unacceptable behavior,” he said. “I’ve spoken to the student-athletes and to staff at the Center, and made it very clear that this behavior falls far short of the high expectations we hold for everyone who represents the University of Illinois.”

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