(OAKLAND, Calif.) — Police have opened a hate crime investigation after a 9-foot-tall menorah was destroyed and thrown into a lake in Oakland, California, during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
The vandalism occurred around 1:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday, according to the Oakland Police Department. There is no update on any suspects at this time, a police department spokesperson told ABC News Thursday.
The Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland inaugurated a new menorah Wednesday night in the place where it said the original was “brutally desecrated.”
Hundreds attended Wednesday night’s lighting, including California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
“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,” Bonta told the crowd.
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said she asked Oakland Interim Police Chief Darren Allison to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
“I want to be very clear that what happened was not just an attack on Oakland’s Jewish community but our entire city and our shared values,” she said in a statement. “We stand together against hate, against antisemitism and against bigotry in any form.”
This year marked the 18th annual lighting of the menorah at Lake Merritt, which Thao called a “long-standing and important symbol for Oakland’s Jewish community.”
The last night of Hanukkah is celebrated Friday.
Rabbi Dovid Labkowski with the Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland told San Francisco ABC station KGO that he found pieces of the menorah scattered about. Parts of the menorah were also pulled from the lake on Wednesday.
“I would never imagine that the menorah, which is a symbol of light, would be something that someone would want to destroy it,” Labkowski told KGO.
The destruction of the menorah was also “accompanied by hateful graffiti,” the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Bay Area said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, while sharing a photo of graffiti that said in part “you’re on f—— alert.”
“I know the air is toxic these days and it just shouldn’t be that way. We should be better than that,” Labkowski told KGO.
Federal and local officials nationwide have warned about tensions from the ongoing war in the Middle East between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas spilling over into the United States.
The war appears to have incited intensifying waves of antisemitism, Islamophobia and other hate incidents across the country.
The Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland 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,” the statement continued. “In the face of antisemitism, we stand stronger and prouder and we will only increase in spreading light.”
Muslim groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ San Francisco Bay Area office, also condemned the destruction, with Executive Director Zahra Billoo saying, “We are profoundly saddened and outraged by the vandalism of the Lake Merritt menorah. Such an act is not only an attack on the Jewish community but an affront to all who stand for religious freedom.”
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