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'Brutally Desecrated': Destruction of Giant 9-Foot Menorah Prompts Hate Crime Probe

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Darkness and light collided in Oakland, California, on Wednesday when a 9-foot-tall menorah was destroyed and thrown into a lake.

Arabic graffiti left behind read “Free Palestine,” according to KGO-TV in San Francisco.

“I read the message they left at the place where they destroyed the menorah here. It’s a death threat, it’s nothing else but a death threat, and we should not take it lightly,” said Inga Pevchim of nearby Fremont.

The Oakland Police Department said the destruction took place about 1:30 a.m., according to ABC News. It is being investigated as a hate crime, police said.

Rabbi Dovid Labkowski of the Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland said he went to the scene where the menorah had stood after being alerted that it was destroyed.

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“I felt outraged. There’s crime in this city, but it just hit a new level of anti-Semitism. Together with the crime — it just makes you feel hopeless,” he said, according to The Jewish News of Northern California.

“I would never imagine that the menorah, which is a symbol of light, would be something that someone would want to destroy it. I don’t know why. I know the air is toxic these days and it shouldn’t be that way,” Labkowski told KGO.

The Chabad of Oakland said the menorah was “brutally desecrated,” according to ABC News. Police have no suspects.

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On Wednesday night, hours after the destruction of the first menorah, a replacement was lit on the shore of Lake Merritt, where a menorah has stood during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah for the past 18 years.

“Too many people have been attacked and targeted and hurt and harmed because of who they are, where they’re from, who they love, how they pray, and that is wrong,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said during the ceremony.

The Chabad said in a statement following Wednesday night’s menorah lighting that it was “so inspired by the powerful show of Jewish pride, strength and resilience.”

“What happened last night was horrible. But we are stronger than hate. We have outlived all the haters and have amazing Jewish holidays to prove it,” it said. “In the face of antisemitism, we stand stronger and prouder and we will only increase in spreading light.”

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Labkowski said the new menorah was lit to emphasize that Oakland’s Jewish population would not run and hide.

“We decided that the response cannot be that we’re going to cower or hide. They cannot extinguish our soul. They cannot extinguish our light,” he said, according to KGO.

A bit of prudence illustrated the depths of the support for the community. Jake Wasserman of Oakland went to the site at about 3 a.m. Thursday to bring coffee to security crews, not knowing that Labkowski had ordered the menorah taken in for the night.

When he saw nothing was there, “I went home and got some of my production stuff from installation work and came out, built up what I could with tripods and electric votive candles and stuff,” Wasserman said.

“Things get knocked down in Oakland, and we put them back up again and that’s how it goes,” he said. “And so knowing their story is going around, it got knocked down and it got put back up again. I didn’t like the idea of it looking like it had gone again.”

Labkowski said a full-size menorah standing 13 feet tall, even larger than the one that was destroyed, will be on display next year.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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