Two 15-year-olds from Lake Ronkonkoma, L.I., were arrested Wednesday by detectives of the Suffolk County Police Hate Crimes Unit and charged with criminal mischief for damaging a menorah Monday in Raynor County Park, Ronkonkoma, L.I.
The teenagers, who were charged as juvenile delinquents, were given field appearance tickets and released to the custody of their parents. They are scheduled to appear in Family Court in Central Islip at a later date.
Police said their investigation is continuing into the vandalism. A member of the Hate Crimes Unit discovered the damage at about 5:30 p.m. Monday.
Rabbi Steven Moss, chairman of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission who participated in the menorah lighting ceremony in the park Saturday evening, said the vandals broke three branches of the menorah “and then used them as baseball bats to break light bulbs on the menorah.”
He said the Suffolk County Board of Rabbis had given Suffolk police a list of the large, publicly displayed menorahs in the county and asked that police keep an eye on them during their patrols. The officer who discovered the damage, Sgt. James Brierton, was on such a patrol, he said.
Kevin Hyms, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce of the Greater Ronkonkomas, which owns the menorah and has displayed it for many years, said he and another chamber member, Paul Weber, made temporary repairs to the menorah Tuesday morning so that it could be lit again Tuesday night.
“It’s a 10-foot high menorah made out of aluminum,” Hyms said. “We used pvc pipe and electrical wiring to repair the arms temporarily. We did it quickly so we could light the menorah for the last two nights of the holiday. We wanted to show the community that we were not going to let this stop the celebration.”
He noted that it was the second time this menorah had been vandalized.
Hyms pointed out also that the vandals broke not only several bulbs on the menorah but also more than half of the bulbs decorating a Christmas tree about 20 feet away.
“Those lights had been lit in a ceremony Sunday,” he said. “Not only were lights on the tree broken, but lights around the tree were also vandalized.”
Hyms added that the chamber “intends to do a complete repair of the menorah so that it will shine every year to celebrate Chanukah and religious liberty.”
Meanwhle, a 6-foot menorah in front of the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah in Salt Lake City was also vandalized during Chanukah. Branches of the menorah were ripped off its left side and dropped in front of the Chabad House in Salt Lake City early Sunday morning, according to reports.
The center has been at its current location since 2005 and has erected a menorah every year. It is the first time the menorah has been vandalized.
Rabbi Benny Zippel, executive director of the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, said he believes the desecration was vandalism and not connected to anti-Semitism. He said he would press charges if the vandals were caught, however.
Meanwhile, a 9-foot menorah stolen Saturday night from the front of the Chabad of Northwest Indiana in Munster, Ind., was recovered the following day. It had been dumped in a backyard about a half-mile away.