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Monday, January 18, 2021

In an effort to show unity and take a stand against hate, members of the UF Jewish community gathered together to reassemble the large menorah in the Hillel garden Monday night.

The menorah was uprooted from its foundation, moved about 15 feet and disassembled.

According to the program directors, the vandalism is thought to have occurred early Saturday morning.

The menorah was discovered Saturday evening when Hillel staff went outside to light the fourth candle for the fourth night of Hanukkah.

Jessica Davis, program director, said the menorah was left outside and untouched to show the community that this is not an issue Hillel is embarrassed about.

“People do things like this to break you and loosen morale,” she said. “But it always does the opposite, and this has strengthened us.”

Hillel program directors chose to leave the menorah until the rededication ceremony.

About 100 people gathered in the Hillel garden to watch the ceremony and see the menorah be placed back in its proper position.

UF President Bernie Machen and Hillel Executive Director Keith Dvorchik helped hoist the menorah up and stake it back in the ground.

“I’m here to express my love and admiration of the Jewish people,” Machen said. “Tonight we are all Jewish. God bless the Jewish people.”

Joshua Kahn, the Israel program director at Hillel, said he saw about 10 people run out of a house behind Hillel and through the backyard at about 11 p.m. Friday night screaming “F--k Jews” and “Happy Hanukkah.”

Kahn said he saw them kick down a section of the fence surrounding Hillel and then drive off in a car.

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Kahn said he hopes the rededication ceremony will prove that the Jewish population is integral part of the Gainesville community.

“We won’t back down in the face of intolerance and hate,” he said.

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