Menorah dismantled, thrown into Oakland's Lake Merritt

A menorah placed at Lake Merritt in Oakland was dismantled and thrown into the water early Wednesday morning.

The Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland had arranged the menorah at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater to mark Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights celebrated over eight days.

On the sixth day, the religious symbol was vandalized.

Rabbi Dovid Labkowski of the synagogue expressed shock at the incident, saying, "What happened was outrageous. It's upsetting. It makes me angry that such hate crimes can happen here in Oakland."

The Oakland Police Department reported that the vandalism occurred around 1:30 a.m. and is being investigated as a hate crime.

That morning, the synagogue informed its members about the incident, saying, "The Oakland Menorah at Lake Merritt was destroyed, chopped up, and thrown into water overnight. The area was vandalized and desecrated."

"Our enemies show tremendous hate, but we are stronger than that," the synagogue added.

Photos from the scene showed pieces of the menorah strewn about with graffiti on the concrete base that held the menorah.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, who was present for the official lighting of the menorah over the weekend, condemned the act and expressed her outrage in a statement.

"The Lake Merritt Menorah is a long-standing and important symbol for Oakland's Jewish community and it breaks my heart that it was vandalized," the mayor said. "I want to be very clear that what happened was not just an attack on Oakland's Jewish community but our entire city and our shared values."

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, also denounced the vandalism. 

"We are profoundly saddened and outraged by the vandalism of the Lake Merritt menorah," said Executive Director Zahra Billoo."The incident is indicative of a broader pattern of religiously motivated hate crimes. The rise in incidents targeting both the Jewish and Muslim communities calls for a collective response against all forms of bigotry. We stand in solidarity with our Jewish neighbors against anti-Semitism, just as we fight against Islamophobia. Hatred against one community is a threat to all."

The Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland is using the incident to spread more light.

"The holiday of Chanukah celebrates the 2,000-year-old victory of the few over the many and light over darkness. Our light was challenged in those times, and in ours, but is inextinguishable!" the synogagoue said.

The synagogue has launched a campaign to rebuild the menorah at Lake Merritt and put up others around Oakland.

Coincidentally, the Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland has organized a Hanukkah parade for Wednesday evening and is inviting the public to attend.