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UES Menorah Will Be Lit With Optimism Despite Last Year's Vandalism

By Shaye Weaver | December 21, 2016 5:02pm
 The Jewish community relit the menorah at Carl Schurz Park last year after a teenager vandalized it twice.
The Jewish community relit the menorah at Carl Schurz Park last year after a teenager vandalized it twice.
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DNA/Shaye Weaver

YORKVILLE — A menorah lighting is getting more attention this year after it was targeted last Hanukkah in a suspected hate crime.

This year's event in Carl Shurz Park on East 86th Street will start at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 25, hosted by both the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and the Chabad of the Upper East Side.

It will be watched with greater vigilance after a 14-year-old boy was accused of targeting the candelabra in 2015, knocking it over twice and breaking its bulbs and four of its branches. 

The boy was arrested and charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime, according to police.

Both houses of worship rallied to re-light the menorah shortly after the vandalism.

Hate crimes have risen by 30 percent in the city in 2016, according to NYPD statistics. A number of reported incidents involved the painting of Swastikas.

When asked if the NYPD will keep an eye on the menorah specifically this year, officials said that "precinct personnel patrol areas throughout the precinct to address any condition that may arise."

But Rabbi Elie Weinstock of the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun said there will be "greater vigilance and wariness."

"In a world where the new normal is fear, danger and attacks, it puts everybody on edge," Weinstock told DNAinfo New York.

"Any time things are reported, crimes are committed, it's definitely on our minds."

Weinstock quoted Abe Foxman, the former National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, saying, "The hate was always there. What we're seeing now is that the sewer covers are off."

But the neighborhood's Jewish community is determined not to let last year's attacks diminish the meaning of the festival of lights.

"It's rich in symbolism and reminds us of victory and overcoming enemies, opposing forces of darkness and oppression," Weinstock said.

"It's impossible to ignore what light represents. A small amount of light chases away a lot of darkness. There are people who want to do bad, people who hate and want to cause harm, but there is also hope and possibility."

The lighting will take place at 5:30 p.m. and there will be music and free doughnuts and latkes before and after the ceremony.