LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — A menorah placed in Lancaster’s Penn Square was vandalized over the weekend the day before Hanukkah celebrations began.
Hundreds of people gathered in the square on Sunday night not only to celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah with the lighting of the menorah but also to show solidarity after the menorah was damaged.
“I thought spray paint, graffiti. I thought maybe scratching it. I never expected that someone would bend the steel,” Miriam Baumgartner, president of the Jewish Community Alliance of Lancaster, said. “When I saw that damage I was in tears.”
While local leaders cannot say the vandalism was definitely a hate crime, they believe whoever damaged the menorah did so intentionally.
“It looks like a hate crime, it feels like a hate crime, but we really don’t know for sure,” Baumgartner said.
Lancaster rallied behind the Jewish community, fixing the menorah within hours. “There is hate in Lancaster, we know there is hate in Lancaster…but there is also love and support,” Baumgartner said.
In an update on Tuesday, Nov. 30, Lancaster Bureau of Police revealed findings after viewing surveillance footage from the suspected time frame of the vandalism. They say the damage does not appear to be from a deliberate act, however, the persons involved seemed to be aware they caused the damage. They’re still trying to identify the individuals involved.
They ask anyone who knows who’s in this photo and their whereabouts, contact police.
The community is invited to join the Jewish Community Alliance of Lancaster in lighting the menorah each night of Hanukkah. More details can be found on the organization’s Facebook page.
Original story from Nov. 27:
Police believe the damage happened on Saturday, Nov. 27, sometime during the overnight hours. The damage is currently being assessed by the artist who installed the menorah.
“As soon as we knew that this was going to happen, that the menorah would be there, people immediately started asking ‘Is it safe? Can we assume it’s going to be protected? Are we exposing ourselves to vandalism?’ And we wanted to be hopeful,” Rabbi Jack Paskoff of the Shaarai Shomayim Congregation said.
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This is the first time Lancaster partnered with the Jewish community to celebrate Hanukkah with a menorah, and both are sad to see what happened. Both the police and the community quickly responded, saying they will not allow fear, hatred, or ignorance to cast a shadow over a celebration of light.
An investigation is currently underway to identify the person or people involved. Police are gathering available video evidence from the surrounding area.
If anyone from the community witnessed this incident, they are asked to call the Lancaster Bureau of Police at 717-735-3301 to speak with an officer or investigator.
The lighting of the menorah is to show solidarity with the Jewish community.