A menorah was stolen and vandalized from a synagogue in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Saturday, the night before the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.
The menorah was pilfered from the local Chabad Lubavitch Jewish synagogue and then resurfaced damaged and broken on a college campus. It is the second time in two years that the menorah was stolen.
Police are still searching for the suspect and have put a call out for leads.
Every year for Hanukkah, the synagogue erects a menorah outside in honor of the eight-day festival.
“Just to share the joy of the holiday and the message of Chanukah, which is the message of the prevalence of good over evil, light over darkness,” said Rabbi Benny Zippel, executive director of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah.
Local resident Leslie Phillips noticed the vandalized menorah propped up against a tree on the college campus. “So, I texted a picture to my husband, and he walked down later to see if it was missing, and it was, so he called the rabbi and police,” she said.
“The arms were pulled off, some arms were missing, period, it was badly damaged,” Zippel said.
In 2013, someone also took the menorah and vandalized it.
“Unfortunately, it’s just another reminder that bigotry and ignorance and lack of respect are things that are real in our community,” Zippel said.
Still, synagogue leaders say they don’t believe this was a hate-crime per se. Police promised to bring in extra security for the synagogue’s Hanukkah celebration. Zippel has also said that he will find better ways to secure the menorah for future years.
“We would like to find a way to have a more sturdy menorah, that could be placed, like more secure, that couldn’t be damaged or stolen,” he said.
On Sunday, the rabbi instructed members of his congregation not to lose sight of meaning of Hanukkah despite the incident.
“Yes, something very sacred has been desecrated,” he said. “And so, the way I look at it is, we have to work extra hard and increase and enhance our commitment to add light to this world.”