by ERIN ROLL
Authorities are looking into reports that the ice menorah on Church Street, which was set up for a special community event to mark the first night of Hanukkah, may have been vandalized.
Deputy police chief Wil Young told Montclair Local that an anonymous caller reported the incident on Dec. 24, saying that a juvenile, approximately between the ages of 10 and 12, was seen pushing the menorah and toppling it over before fleeing the scene.
Chief Todd Conforti said on Dec. 31 that it is not believed to have been a bias incident. The incident was still under investigation at press time, and police are still working to identify the person or people involved, Conforti said.
The matter was reported to the Montclair Civil Rights Commission. Commission chair Christa Rapoport acknowledged that the incident might have been a child playing with the menorah. But given recent events such as a shooting in Jersey City on Dec. 10, which authorities believe was motivated by anti-Semitism, it was wise to be cautious about the incident, she said.
The pedestal of the ice menorah remained up until Friday afternoon, when it was removed. Prior to its removal, the sculpture was covered over by a plastic sheet, but the top portion of the menorah was gone, with chunks of the ice sculpture lying nearby.
Rabbi Yaacov Leaf of Chabad of Montclair, which organized the Dec. 22 event in which the menorah was dedicated, wrote in a Facebook post that the MPD had contacted him to make him aware of the report.
“While I don’t know the motive behind this destructive act, I can’t help but think the possibility of this being a bias incident. I sure hope not,” Leaf said in the post. “At any rate let’s light those menorahs and let our lights shine bright! I want to thank the MPD for their attention to this matter,” Leaf wrote.
Leaf said that as of Tuesday morning, he and Chabad of Montclair had received many emails and text messages from community members expressing their concerns and their support over the past four days, and he was grateful for the community response. “We should use it as a teaching moment to show the power that a positive moment can have on people,” he said.
In light of recent events, Leaf called on the community to reach out to their neighbors and build bridges. “We have to channel the fear into positive action,” he said. “We need to plant seeds of unity.”