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KSU Comes 2Gether To Fight Sukkah Vandalism, ACLU Sues Kansas

It happened over the weekend.

A sukkah at Kansas State University was destroyed.

But the destruction has led to the opportunity for the campus and community to rally against hate and build a new sukkah of love.

The sukkah was built by the KSU Hillel and KSU’s Dining Services and was located on the lawn behind Goodnow Hall and near Kramer Dining Center. Although there was a wind storm on the evening of the incident, it was not high enough to pull up the sukkah’s stakes. Plus, the damaged sukkah ended up wrapped around the car of Glen Buickerood, a graduate student in counseling and the actual liaison between Housing and Dining and KSU Hillel. Too coincidental?

A Sukkot Solidarity Dinner is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Bosco Student Plaza. “We are doing this in order to make two things clear: first, hate and religious intolerance have no home on our campus; second, our Jewish neighbors are welcomed and loved and we want to embrace their presence at K-State and in Manhattan (Kansas)” said a representating of Dining Services

Hillel adviser Greg Newmark says what happened was “certainly anti-Semitic in effect.” Newmark says the “most generous” thing he can say is that the people involved “are remarkably insensitive.” Greg is an Assistant Professor at KSU. He received degrees from Technion (studying with Professor Yoram Shifton) in Haifa, Yale, and Berkeley.

Richard B. Myers, President of Kansas State University, wrote to all K-Staters saying that the sukkah was shamefully vandalized, saying “I want to emphasize how deeply concerned the K-State family is about this incident. There is no place in our community for hateful, criminal reactions to religious expression. Many who live or work on our campuses, particularly those of the Jewish community, are experiencing significant pain and fear as a result of this act. Our hearts go out to those in the K-State family who have been negatively affected. Students, faculty and staff at K-State represent a wide variety of religious, nonreligious and spiritual perspectives. This dimension of diversity is essential to our campus community. It is in our best interest, as a K-State family, to engage in civil dialogue about such differences and not resort to uncivil and hurtful behaviors. We want to once again remind the university community about our Principles of Community and Statement on Free Speech and Expression…”

Sadly, this week, some homophobic graffiti appeared in the plaza this week. The sukkah destruction comes a few weeks after “unwelcome” white nationalist posters were put up across campus, prompting backlash and condemnations from several campus organizations.

After the sukkah was rebuilt, Dozens of KSU students and residents of Manhattan, Kansas had a solidarity march. After walking almost a mile across campus, the Sukkot holiday dinner began for Shemini Atzeret. Many of the assembled, most not members of the Jewish faith, said they were inspired to see a community stand together, and to shine a light on a growing problem or prejudice.

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In other news, from Kansas, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced that it is suing the State of Kansas, because the state outlawed the boycott of Israel earlier this year.

Brian Hauss, the ACLU’s Staff Attorney for Speech, Privacy, and Technology wrote that the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging a Kansas statute requiring state contractors to sign a statement certifying that they do not boycott Israel, including boycotts of companies profiting off settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. He wrote that the ACLU takes no position for or against campaigns to boycott Israel or any other foreign country, but that the group has long defended the right to participate in political boycotts. The ACLU decided to represent a math teacher and trainer from Kansas who was told she would need to sign the certification statement in order to participate in a state program training other math teachers. As a member of the Mennonite Church USA, she decided not to buy consumer goods and services offered by Israeli companies and international companies operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Therefore, since she boycotts Israel and chooses not to sign the certification, she cannot work for the Kansas Department of Education as a math teacher trainer.

The ACLU argues that Kansas’ law unconstitutionally disqualifies people from working for the state based on protected expression and association that has nothing to do with their jobs.

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