A 15-foot menorah was found destroyed on the front steps of Chabad House at 715 Hill St. Saturday morning. The menorah, the traditional symbol of Hanukkah, was built of gold-colored PVC pipes and had been torn down and left twisted on the sidewalk.
The Chabad House serves University Jewish students and residents by offering a place for worship, study and community. Leaders said they believe the property destruction may have been motivated by religious prejudices.
“For someone to actually go and maliciously destroy a menorah, there has to be some kind of hate there,” Chabad House Director Altoer Goldstein said. “It’s something very dramatic.”
Goldstein said the house’s leadership has not yet ruled out alcohol as a motivator.
“Maybe someone was under the influence,” Goldstein said. “But that does not justify in any way their action. It wasn’t just a menorah but a Jewish symbol that was vandalized.”
Chabad members have placed the professionally designed menorah on the steps for 20 years in celebration of Hanukkah, the eight-day celebration often referred to as the Jewish Festival of Lights. Goldstein estimated that it was worth about $1,000.
Chabad members are upset and discouraged by the incident, Goldstein said. They believed that Ann Arbor was a place where they could practice their religion removed from anti-Semitism, he said, especially because there are an estimated 6,000 Jewish students at the University.
“They’re very disturbed about the action,” Goldstein said. “The greatest hope is that we can make people aware so that this will never happen again.”
In order to expose people to what happened, Chabad leaders decided to leave the damaged menorah where it was found.
There are currently no suspects in the case. The Ann Arbor Police Department is investigating, but it is unsure how the menorah was damaged or whether it was intentional, Sgt. Pat Ouellette said.
Immediately after discovering the destruction, Chabad members erected a temporary menorah where the old one stood. They plan to eventually create a new permanent menorah, and invite anyone interested in helping to contact them.
“We’re going to have the same setup, but we’re going to take security measures,” Goldstein said. “We’re going to put things in place so that such an incident won’t happen again — but if it does they’ll be brought to justice.”
Goldstein said that Chabad leaders are more interested in talking to the perpetrators than taking legal action.
“Every religion should be able to celebrate and practice their own religion in their own way,” he said.