Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Harvard Chabad Menorah Vandalized

A large menorah set up by the Chabad House at Harvard in Cambridge Common was found brutally vandalized Friday morning—the culminating act in a week of damage inflicted on Chabad's religious display in the Common.

"The entire menorah was basically destroyed. One of the arms was broken off. Six of the bulbs had been destroyed," said Joel B. Pollak, a student at the Harvard Law School. "When I looked more closely, I saw the electrical wires had been cut." Pollak said he discovered the damage while walking by the park on Friday just past noon. He wrote about the incident on his blog later that day.

The menorah was part of a Hanukkah display erected in the Common by The Chabad House at Harvard, a Jewish community organization. The defacement was particularly cutting during the week of celebration for the Jewish community, said HLS Professor Alan M. Dershowitz, one of the faculty advisers to The Chabad House.

"[Hanukkah is] a festival of bringing people together," he said. "Clearly this has all the appearance of a hate crime."

Dershowitz said he believed the attack on a menorah was an attack on Judaism, not related political philosophies such as Zionism.

"This menorah is purely a religious symbol," he said. "It's just a plain-out anti-Semitic act."

The incident, identified as a case of "malicious destruction" by the Cambridge Police Department's public crime log, was the most dramatic event in a serious of attacks on The Chabad House's holiday display in the Common.

According to Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi, the director of The Chabad House, "Happy Hanukkah" signs placed near the menorah appeared torn on Wednesday and Thursday. He said he originally dismissed these subtle signs of damage, believing them to be accidental, not malicious.

"For a couple of days throughout the holiday, we saw the sign on the menorah was ripped. We said, 'Let's hope it was the weather.'" But he said the demolition of the menorah proved that the damage was indeed intentional.

The CPD's crime log reports damage on the Cambridge Common's Hanukkah display between Dec. 18 and Dec. 26. There have been no arrests made, and the Police Department declined to comment on the incidents.

Zarchi said the display will not be repaired this year, as the Hanukkah celebration ends Monday. But he said that Harvard Chabad still plans to put up a menorah again next year.

"We will not be deterred by this act," he said. "We will continue this beautiful traditional of bringing light and warmth and illumination."

He did say, however, that next year he plans to have the Cambridge police provide security for the new menorah.

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