Feds probe suspected Jewish hate crime near university

The Associated Press
Thursday May 10, 2001

DAVIS — Federal investigators have been called in to investigate a suspected hate crime directed at a Jewish organization near the University of California, Davis campus. 

Someone ignited a Star of David flag hanging under the eaves of the small, white frame Hillel House between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. Wednesday, said Davis Police Sgt. Colleen Turay. The fire spread to some shingles and a corner of the home, causing minor damage, she said. 

An object also was thrown through a front window, knocking over a Jewish sign, Turay said. “Apparently there was some indication this might happen, or some time of incident might happen,” Turay said. Police were investigating the nature of the threat, she said. 

Davis police called in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms because it appears to be a hate crime, she said. 

The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region denounced what it called a “despicable act of hatred.” The group’s chairman, Marc Carrel, compared it to arsons at three Sacramento-area synagogues three years ago; two defendants are jailed awaiting trial on charges stemming from those arsons. “There’s always rumors of activities – nothing specific,” said Raphael Moore, president of Hillel House’s board. “We have had no incidents that I can remember in years, certainly nothing like this.” 

The house was empty after Hebrew classes concluded about 9 p.m. Tuesday, he said. An earlier weekly discussion of Israeli politics brought its usual spirited debate, he said, but no confrontations. 

The Davis campus has had several racially motivated incidents over the last few months, but most involved Asian students – “nothing related to us,” Moore said. “I want to believe that this is an isolated event, (though) nothing to be taken lightly.” 

The house already had installed a security system that was triggered during the incident, and will go about its business serving about 2,500 Jewish students from UC Davis and Sacramento State University, Moore said.  

Hillel House — named after an ancient Jewish rabbi — hosts about 500 religious and cultural events a year. 

“We’re not going to hide,” Moore said. “Tonight a new flag will be put up in (the burned flag’s) place.”