Ronkonkoma menorah vandalized, say cops
Suffolk County police hate-crime unit detectives are investigating damage done to a menorah located within Raynor County Park in Ronkonkoma, authorities said Monday.
"Two of the arms supporting lights were removed and bulbs were broken on the top of the menorah," a police spokeswoman said.
The damage on Ronkonkoma Avenue was discovered Monday at 5:30 p.m. by a sergeant who was a passerby, police said.
The menorah is owned by the Chamber of Commerce of the Greater Ronkonkomas, said chamber president Denise Schwarz.
"This isn't the first time this has happened. This is just despicable," she said, referring to a December 2009 incident in which the menorah's base had been broken and left on the ground. "I don't understand it. And I'm sure that ours isn't going to be the only menorah that is damaged during the holiday season."
Paul Weber, 61, of Ronkonkoma, a chamber member, said he went to light the menorah around 5:30 p.m. and found police on the scene.
"I was heartbroken. It represents the community and it's something that just saddens everybody when they see it," said Weber, who has been on a committee to light the menorah for nearly 20 years.
"Tomorrow, I'm going to make every effort to put it back up and get it lit," he said Monday night. "It might look a little bit different, but it will be lit and we want to send a message that we're not going to be deterred."
Police removed the broken menorah arms, which they believed had fingerprints, Weber said.
It was a departure from the joyous celebration Nov. 30, which included prayers, Hanukkah songs and latkes, said Rabbi Steven Moss, who presided over the event and leads Temple B'nai Israel in Oakdale.
"To hear that a person or persons felt that they had to vandalize it and tear it down is a very sad thing," said Moss, who is chairman of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission. "People should appreciate and respect the symbols of other people's religions, just as they should respect other people's property, and I hope that whoever did this is caught, arrested and will be charged appropriately."
Police said part of the continuing investigation is "to discover whether or not it is a hate crime." Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers at 800-220-8477.