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Lancaster celebrates Hanukkah, despite weekend vandalism of menorah

The Lancaster Jewish community celebrated the first of eight nights of Hanukkah, despite weekend vandalism of the city menorah.

LANCASTER, Pa. — Update (Nov. 30): After reviewing surveillance footage, investigators with the Lancaster Bureau of Police say the damage took place at 1:35 a.m. on Nov. 27.

Investigators say the damage did not appear to be a deliberate act, however, the people involved appeared to be aware that had damaged the menorah.

Credit: Lancaster Bureau of Police

Anyone with knowledge of who the people in the image are is asked to call the bureau at 717-735-3301.

Previously

The Jewish community of Lancaster celebrated the first night of Hanukkah with a public candle-lighting in Penn Square on Sunday evening.

The ceremony, which came a day after Lancaster’s city menorah was vandalized. The menorah was found Saturday morning with parts of its metal bent out of shape and unusable.

“It’s hard. I was in tears when I first saw the menorah,” said Miriam Baumgartner, president of the Jewish Community Alliance of Lancaster (JCAL). The “ER” end of Lancaster was bent forward and down and some of the letters that spell Lancaster at the bottom were bent forward.”

Credit: City of Lancaster
The damaged menorah in Lancaster on Nov. 27.

Hanukkah itself was borne of an act of antisemitic vandalism, when the ancient Greeks conquered Judea in 168 B.C.E. and desecrated the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by sacrificing pigs and building an altar to the Greek god Zeus.

It’s unclear if the damage to the Lancaster menorah was motived by antisemitism.

Still, many Lancaster community leaders—including Christian clergy and Mayor Danene Sorace—came to the lighting to show solidarity with the Jewish community.

“Let our light shine together as a community with no shadow that can overtake us, for this night we will light the first candle,” Mayor Sorace said to the crowd before the menorah was lit.

Hundreds packed the square for the lighting and sang the candle lighting prayers and Hanukkah songs. But the vandalism was heavy on many minds.

“Everybody’s got mixed emotions, right? It’s very disappointing but it brought more people out I think,” said Anthony DiPietro of Mountville.

“Even with it being damaged, the message of tonight with hundreds and hundreds of people here—Jews, non-Jews—tells us that we’re safe, even in the midst of some people who want to harm us,” said Lancaster resident Ben Wachstein.

The lightings will continue all eight nights at 5:30 p.m., except for Friday, Dec. 3, when the lighting will happen at 4 p.m.

Members of the Christian community and several elected officials, including Lancaster County Commission Joshua Parsons and Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.) are expected to attend lightings through the week.

Police don’t yet have a suspect in the vandalism incident. However security camera footage from the local bank is expected to be released soon, according to Miriam Baumgartner.

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