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October 21, 2016 6:46 am

Defying Past Antisemitic Vandalism, Jewish Students at U of Montana Erect Campus Sukkah

avatar by Lea Speyer

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A traditional sukkah. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A traditional sukkah. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Jewish students at the University of Montana (UM) refused to allow past antisemitism to deter them from building a sukkah on campus, the independent student newspaper the Montana Kaimin reported on Wednesday.

“To be able to do this again, it feels very Jewish. People have tried to keep us down by destroying it in the past, but we have come back and made it again,” said Grace Johnson, a former vice president of Jewish student group Hillel, referring to the second annual construction of the traditional temporary dwelling on campus after a five-year hiatus.

Daniel Harris, a UM Hillel member who sponsored the construction of the religious structure, told the Montana Kaimin, “Not a lot of students have landlords who will let them build this kind of facility and follow this important commandment. It gives you a sense of belonging.”

Jewish students gathered throughout the week to celebrate the holiday by eating and doing homework in the sukkah. Hillel encouraged all students to visit and explore the dwelling, the report said.

The presence of the sukkah on campus has had a tumultuous 20-year history. According to Johnson, nearly every one that was built was either destroyed by drunkards or vandalized by antisemites.

In 2010, a sukkah on campus was torn down and reconstructed as a cross. In 2009, it was defaced with lewd graffiti of penises.

This year, according to campus police chief Marty Ludemann, a squad car has been parked in front of the sukkah to deter acts of vandalism and to show support for Hillel.

Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles, is a harvest festival commemorating the wandering of the ancient Israelites in the desert for 40 years following the exodus from Egypt. The holiday began on Sunday and continues for a week.

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