Menorahs Vandalized Across the United States

Jewish communities worldwide celebrated Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, from December 7 to 15. Several Jewish leaders and organizations set up menorahs to commemorate the event.

But with the recent surge of antisemitism worldwide since Hamas attacked Israel last October 7th and the subsequent retaliation by Israeli forces, many of these menorah installations are being vandalized and destroyed throughout cities and towns in the United States.

In the city of Oakland, California, a large public menorah installed by a local Chabad Jewish Center was vandalized and destroyed, with pieces of it thrown into the nearby Lake Merritt. According to KGO, the vandalism happened on December 12th, the sixth night of Hanukkah.

Photos and a video shared by the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area (JCRC Bay Area) on X (formerly Twitter) showed pieces of the 11-foot-tall Hanukkah menorah scattered across the lake waterfront as well as graffiti painted near where the menorah was erected, with threatening messages such as “we’re gonna find you” and “you’re on f****** alert.” Pieces of the menorah were also seen lying near the shallow waters of Lake Merritt. “Free Palestine” in Arabic was also written near the menorah once stood.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, who attended the lighting of the menorah, released a statement condemning the incident and also said she asked Oakland Police Department Interim Chief Darren Allison “to investigate this incident as a hate crime,” adding that she has been working closely with Oakland authorities and Dovid Labkowski, the rabbi of the Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland, in looking into the incident.

I want to be very clear that what happened was not just an attack on Oakland’s Jewish Community but our entire city and our shared values,” Thao said in her statement, which was also shared by JCRC Bay Area on X.

We stand together against hate, against antisemitism, and against bigotry in any form. And when someone commits such a crime, they are attacking the foundation of our City,” the statement added. 

Meanwhile, a pro-Palestinian protester was seen climbing a 30-foot Hanukkah menorah in New Haven, Connecticut, and planting a Palestinian flag between the menorah’s candles. The incident was caught on camera and shared on social media. Even though the menorah was not damaged, local authorities are still investigating the incident.

The Jewish Community Synagogue in Florida’s North Palm Beach recently commissioned an artist to create a menorah out of sand in Juno Beach to celebrate Hanukkah. But this giant, sand-sculpted menorah was later destroyed and defaced with a Nazi swastika. The incident remains under investigation, but the local Jewish community gathered to rebuild and light the menorah again.

In another city in California, this time in Santa Monica, authorities are looking for a man who vandalized and destroyed an 8-foot menorah near the intersection of 15th Street and Montana Avenue. Investigators said the man, wearing a black hoodie with white lettering on his back and black pants, allegedly jumped up and grabbed the steel and glass menorah, causing it to fall over and break. 

Numerous incidents of menorahs being destroyed and vandalized were also recorded throughout other places in the United States, such as in Washington, DC, and in Brooklyn, where two public menorahs were damaged. The New York Police Department (NYPD) is investigating the two incidents as hate crimes.

But menorahs were being vandalized elsewhere. A far-right member of parliament in Poland sparked controversy after he used a fire extinguisher to blow out the menorah's candles installed in a government building. A public menorah in West Hempstead, London, was also toppled last December 14th, with a “Free Palestine” sticker affixed to its base.

In addition, it wasn’t just menorahs that were being defaced. In Greensboro, North Carolina, a 22-year-old Black man was arrested last December 13th and charged with vandalizing a Holocaust memorial called “She Wouldn’t Take Off Her Boots,” a large bronze statue of a group of women and children “dedicated to the women and children who endured or perished in the Holocaust.

According to the statement released by the non-profit Women of the Shoah, the monument “was defaced with graffiti that included a swastika inside of the Star of David at the base of the monument.

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