Itongadol.- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to join the Upper East Side Chabad and nearby Kehilath Jeshurun for the second night of Chanukah lighting, a day after vandals tore down and smashed the community’s menorah in Carl Schurz Park.
Police are treating the incident as a hate crime. They have offered a $2,500 reward for any information leading to a suspect’s arrest.
“Obviously, it was a hate crime,” UES Chabad Rabbi Ben Tzion Krasniasnki told The Algemeiner on Monday afternoon.
Kranianski said it was the first such incident in the eight years the two synagogues have carried on the tradition of lighting the menorah in the park together.
“It was around 9 ‘clock,” he said. “They smashed the menorah, they toppled the whole span, shattered the bulbs … All New Yorkers were horrified. People from the neighborhood passing by are upset.”
The congregations have responded by making the second night a “special lighting,” said Krasnianski, adding that de Blasio — whose home sits directly adjacent to the park — is scheduled to attend.
Rabbi Elie Weinstock of the Modern Orthodox Kehilath Jeshurun told The Algemeiner that some pieces of the old menorah had to be replaced. “It’s shocking and we don’t know why somebody would do it, but it just strengthens our resolve,” he said.
Police said the menorah was actually vandalized twice over the weekend. Weinstock said he was told it was knocked over Friday night, but stood back up before morning. Then, it was vandalized again on Sunday, as Jews around the world celebrated the first night of the holiday.
The Anti-Defamation League said it was troubled by the incident. “ADL recently expressed concern over anti-Semitic incidents that have taken place across the five boroughs, including two assaults, one in Brooklyn and another in Manhattan, as well as an incident of anti-Semitic harassment outside of a synagogue in Brooklyn,” the group said in a statement.
Weinstock noted that there was a police presence the first night, when about 1,000 people came out to celebrate with food, singing and dancing, and he said there would probably be a stronger presence on Monday, especially because of the mayor’s visit.
“This is the whole message of Chanukah,” said a defiant Kranianski. “This is how we respond to darkness, we intensify the light … The light will always triumph over darkness.”