A menorah in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania was vandalized on Friday night, two days before the start of Hanukkah.
Lancaster police said in a statement that an unidentified individuals or group intentionally damaged the 460 pound metal menorah in Penn Square, Lancaster Online reported.
They are currently looking for witnesses.
This was the first Hanukkah the custom-fabricated menorah was put up on the northeast corner of the square, where it stands a few feet from the city’s Christmas tree.
It was designed to look like a red rose bush because Lancaster is known as the “city of roses.” There are eighteen roses on the menorah, representing “chai.”
The vandalism was significant. Several of its arms were bent forward, and its letters spelling “Lancaster” were also bent and disconnected from the rest of the menorah.
Several of the menorah’s steel branches were also cut off.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking looking at this thing,” Miriam Baumgarnter, the board president of the Jewish Community Alliance of Lancaster, told the news outlet.
Baumgartner echoed the police assessment that the menorah was intentionally vandalized. She added that “fortunately there are lots of cameras in the area.” But police told her that footage from two nearby bank cameras pointed in the direction of the menorah was not immediately available.
The vandalism was first noticed by a city official on Saturday morning.
Police said in a statement that they “will continue to stand with our community partners in the Jewish faith community.”
“This year the City of Lancaster partnered with the Jewish community for the first time to celebrate Hanukkah with a menorah placed at Penn Square. Last night the menorah was intentionally vandalized,” said a statement on the City of Lancaster’s Facebook page. “And while we don’t yet know the motivation, we will not allow fear, hatred, or ignorance to cast a shadow over a celebration of light. Join us each night of Hanukkah during the lighting of the menorah, starting tomorrow night, to stand in solidarity as a community with our Jewish neighbors and illuminate the darkness behind this action and anything like it, today and every day.”
The menorah underwent repairs over the weekend to make it ready for the first night of Hanukkah on Sunday.
Mark Lewin, the artist who constructed the menorah using $1,600 in donated materials, planned to conduct additional repairs on Tuesday.
City council president Ismail Smith-Wade-El called the defacement of the menorah “wholly unacceptable.”
“It brings me no joy to tell you that the menorah in Penn Square was intentionally damaged last night,” he said on Facebook. “Our Jewish neighbors will be celebrating the Festival of Lights this coming week, and to attack a holy symbol at this time is an act of disrespect and prejudice.”
He added: “Most of us who call Lancaster home believe that everyone has the right to live, believe, work, love, and celebrate however they choose. The desecration of the menorah in Penn Square is a violation of our core values. Inaction in the face of anti-Semitism is a violation of our core values.”