SALT LAKE CITY – Saturday night, before the eve of Chanukah, the menorah at Chabad Lubavitch Jewish Synagogue in Sugar House was stolen, vandalized, and then dumped at Westminster College. Police are still searching for the suspect.
Chabad lubavitch synagogue puts out their menorah every year for Chanukah. They do it to celebrate the Jewish holiday with the community.
“Just to share the joy of the holiday and the message of Chanukah, which is the message of the prevalence of good over evil, light over darkness,” said Rabbi Benny Zippel, executive director of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah.
Saturday night, someone took the menorah and vandalized it, then left it on Westminster College's campus. Sugar House resident Leslie Phillips was out walking when she noticed it propped up against a tree.
“So, I texted a picture to my husband, and he walked down later to see if it was missing, and it was, so he called the rabbi and police,” she said.
This isn't the first time it’s happened. In 2013, someone also took the menorah and vandalized it.
“The arms were pulled off, some arms were missing, period, it was badly damaged,” Zippel said.
Leaders of the synagogue say, while they don't believe this was a crime of hate, they're disappointed someone would desecrate sacred property during the Jewish holiday.
“Unfortunately, it’s just another reminder that bigotry and ignorance and lack of respect are things that are real in our community,” Zippel said.
The synagogue is hosting a Chanukah celebration Sunday night at the State Capitol building. Police say they will be bringing in extra security after the incident.
“If anybody has any leads on who took this, give us a call at 801-799-3000,” said Lt. Michael Hatch with the Salt Lake City Police Department. “You can remain anonymous if you would like."
Rabbi Zippel says they’re going to find a way to better secure the menorah in the future.
“We would like to find a way to have a more sturdy menorah, that could be placed, like more secure, that couldn’t be damaged or stolen,” he said.
He told members of his congregation Sunday, despite the incident, to remember the spirit of the season.
“Yes, something very sacred has been desecrated,” he said. “And so, the way I look at it is, we have to work extra hard and increase and enhance our commitment to add light to this world.”