As the eight-day festival of Hanukkah commenced over the weekend, several holiday menorahs in California and Arizona were vandalized in what the local Jewish communities suspect to be hate crimes.
On Sunday, the first day of Hanukkah, a Chabad center in the Southern California city of Santa Monica was vandalized, according to local news reports.
Feces and rice were smeared on the window of the Living Torah Center on Wilshire Boulevard either late Saturday night or early Sunday, Rabbi Boruch Rabinowitz told CBS Los Angeles.
Police are investigating; there are no suspects.
A large Hanukkah menorah stands behind the center’s glass-walled street front.
“This seems kind of intentional,” the center’s assistant rabbi, Dovid Tenenbaum, told the Los Angeles Times. “With a religious artifact in the window, we have to assume so.”
The Living Torah Center posted a message on its website thanking the public for “the outpouring of love and support from people of every background.” It said that “in the spirit of the holiday,” the center would “move forward and continue to spread light and love and not let this incident diminish our resolve to bring goodness to the world.”
It was not the first episode of apparent anti-Semitism at the center, the newspaper reported. According to the Times, the center had received a threatening letter about a year ago, and graffiti was found scrawled on the center’s sukkah.
The Times quoted Tenenbaum as saying that during services about a month ago, “a man stood up and shouted ‘Heil Hitler,’ positioning his arms as if shooting a rifle. He ran away before anyone could catch him.”
Also on Sunday, a large menorah and Holocaust memorial were damaged at a synagogue in Sun City, Arizona.
The damage to Temple Beth Shalom was discovered Sunday morning. The local sheriff’s office is investigating the incident, which has not been classified a hate crime, the local media reported. The synagogue had celebrated a bar mitzvah the day before, the NBC affiliate Channel 12 News reported.
The copper and metal menorah has been in front of the synagogue for more than 30 years.
Tire tracks in the front yard of the synagogue indicated that someone smashed a truck into the menorah; it also appears that someone then tried to pull down the menorah, according to reports. It will cost about $7,000 to fix the menorah, Rabbi Sheldon Moss told the local television station KPHO.
A Holocaust memorial on the synagogue’s campus also was damaged.
Meanwhile, a 6-foot-high, 100-pound menorah was stolen from a park in San Francisco, but officials say anti-Semitic motives are not likely.
The menorah in Washington Square Park was reported stolen Sunday after having been lit the night before, the first night of the Hanukkah, the San Francisco Gate reported. It was installed two weeks ago by the local Chabad.
Police believe the menorah was stolen by metal recyclers and not by someone with anti-Semitic intent.
— Breaking SF News (@breakingsfnews) December 27, 2016
“We didn’t think somebody could make off with something that big,” Miryum Mochkin, co-director of the North Beach branch of Chabad, told the Gate. She said Chabad considers it a hate crime.
“At the end of the day, someone that evil, who would target a religious symbol, is a person of darkness,” Mochkin said, according to the Gate. “We’re a celebration of light. They’re stuck in a dark place.”
Chabad, which had been scheduled to hold a public lighting of the menorah on Monday night, called on families to meet in the park at the scheduled time with their own personal menorahs.