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Vandalized menorah in Ronkonkoma repaired in time for lighting

Paul Weber, of the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce,

Paul Weber, of the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce, tries to fix a damaged Menorah inside the Raynor County Park on Ronkonkoma Avenue in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime. (Dec. 3, 2013) Credit: James Carbone

Three hours, two PVC pipes, a handful of lightbulbs and a little faith was all Paul Weber needed to save his community's Hanukkah after vandals in Ronkonkoma tried to put the kibosh on the eight-night holiday.

A jumbo-sized menorah installed at Raynor Beach County Park on Ronkonkoma Avenue was found damaged Monday night. Sgt. James Brierton, an officer with Suffolk County Police Department's Hate Crimes Task Force, had been on routine patrol of area menorahs when he spotted the vandalism about 5:30 p.m.

Weber, 61, a member of the Chamber of Commerce of the Greater Ronkonkomas, which owns the menorah, had shown up shortly after for the lighting ceremony and was "devastated" by what he saw.

Two of the arms supporting the lights were snapped off, and several bulbs atop the menorah were shattered, Brierton said. The detached arms were used to smash some light bulbs on a Christmas tree about 20 feet away.

Weber used PVC piping and other materials from the hardware store he owns on Hawkins Avenue to fix the menorah on the seventh day of the Jewish holiday, in time for the nightly lighting.

"I started fixing it this morning at 6 a.m. as soon as I woke up," said Weber Tuesday, who has helped light the menorah for two decades. "We wanted to get it back to the way it should be so that they can't ruin this for us."

About 15 people showed up for the 5:30 p.m. lighting ceremony Tuesday. Rabbi Steven Moss recited a prayer over the menorah as three police cars and a few officers sat nearby.

"It would have been too easy to simply take it apart and say, 'It's terrible what happened, we'll just do it again next year,' " said Moss, who leads Temple B'nai Israel in Oakdale and is chairman of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission. "The effort needed to be made so that there was a clear message out there that the light of the menorah, this year or any year, will not go out."

Bruce Levine, 61, a liquor salesman from Medford, and his wife, Claire Levine, 62, said they normally attend menorah lightings, but this one was paramount. "It's a nice thing for the community; and to have this happen, it's very upsetting," Bruce Levine said. "It goes to show that the candles must glow, and we're here to show support. It's great that they got this going again." Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers at 800-220-8477.

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