Vandalism targets Jewish students at apartments near UCF

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Students at an apartment complex near the University of Central Florida said they're concerned after two acts of vandalism that appear to target Jewish students.

Residents came home to the University House apartment complex off Alafaya Trail and found several swastikas carved into hallway walls.

"I was in complete shock," an unidentified student, who believes she was targeted, told Eyewitness News.

There were nearly a dozen swastikas discovered on different walls, a police report states.

"It's not like it was a little doodle by a kid. It was like someone keyed it onto the wall, circled it knowing there are Jewish students living here and on campus," student Melissa Sherman said.

Many residents said they're outraged and believe the vandalism was planned.

"We don't think the timing was on accident because it was Holocaust Remembrance Day Sunday night and she discovered it on Saturday," Sherman said.

But the vandalism on the walls isn't the first anti-Semitic incident at the apartment complex. In early April, the same unidentified student's mezuzah, a small casing that's a Jewish symbol of a welcome home, was ripped off her front door and the prayer inside was stolen.

"To tear it off is symbolically showing a malicious act because it is a protective instrument," Sherman said.

The University House apartments aren't affiliated with UCF, but the school released a statement calling the vandalism "reprehensible." Management at the apartment complex said the swastikas have been painted over.

The students said they decided to call the Orange County Sheriff's Office, which has opened an investigation.

The Anti-Defamation League released a statement about the vandalism to WFTV:

"On the heels of having just commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day, a solemn day when we remember the victims of the Holocaust, it is especially upsetting that Jewish UCF students who reside at this off campus housing complex are confronted with such abhorrent anti-Semitic symbols at their home away from home. The swastika remains an ominous universal symbol of hate and its profound negative impact cannot be trivialized.

Furthermore, to have a mezuzah desecrated is especially disturbing as a mezuzah is not just a decorative choice for observant Jews, but rather a ritual box containing verses from the Hebrew Bible posted on doorposts as a commandment in Judaism.

It is our understanding that the housing complex will remove all of the swastikas from its property and we hope that measures will be taken into consideration to ensure that that
similar incidents do not occur in the future."