By Juan Soto
Police were searching for the individuals responsible for vandalizing a menorah twice in Hollis Hills set up at the intersection of Union Turnpike and 220th Street by the Chabad House of Eastern Queens.
“I lived here for 30 years and this is the first time an incident like this happened,” said Zion Halili, president of the Hollis Hills Civic Association. “In our community we have Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and we all live together in peace and harmony.”
The vandalism occurred, Halili said, during the Hanukkah holiday season.
He pointed out the police were investigating the two incidents in which the menorah was knocked to the ground.
“This was a hate crime,” he added.
Community leaders, clergy and elected officials joined together to condemn the vandalism. Halili said the holiday display at Hollis Hills was desecrated Dec. 16 and then again Dec. 21.
The menorah was torn down in both instances, shattering many of its bulbs.
“It’s a Jewish holiday and it’s very disturbing to see something like this happening,” said Rabbi Yerachmiel Zalmanov, of the Chabad House. “However, it will not stop us from continuing to do good deeds in the world.”
The Chabad House sets up the Chanukah candelabrum as part of the holiday celebration.
“The desecration of this menorah is very troubling, and I ask all Queens residents to join me in denouncing these two disgraceful crimes,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing). “These acts of intolerance have no place in a civilized society and must be condemned by all.”
“Any vandalism is unacceptable,” said City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens). “And an act of anti-Semitism on the eve of Hanukkah is deplorable.”
The elected officials joined the interfaith group by the site of the menorah.
“We, as a community, wholeheartedly denounce such hateful destruction of an object of religious significance and will not tolerate it,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside). “Hate crime against one group is a crime against all of us.”
The Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the case.
“I am confident that the hardworking members of the 111th precinct will do everything they can to bring justice,” said Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows). “These deplorable acts of cowardice have no place in our community where we live, work and serve,” he said, describing the act as “despicable.”
“We do not and will not tolerate these sorts of heinous crimes against anyone in our community,” Halili said.
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.