2018-01-03 / Voice at the Shore

Margate menorah decorations vandalized in what police are calling “bias incidents”

Voice shore editor

After repeated vandalism, the menorah decoration that stood in front of Margate’s recreation complex has been replaced by one high up on a light pole. After repeated vandalism, the menorah decoration that stood in front of Margate’s recreation complex has been replaced by one high up on a light pole. On the sixth day of Chanukah, December 18, Margate residents awoke to find that three highly visible electric Menorahs decorating their streets had been vandalized overnight. The menorahs were all located within blocks of one another—one in front of the JCC on Jerome Avenue, another down the street at Jerome and Amherst Avenues, and the other on a pier at Amherst and Washington Avenues.

“It’s sad,” said Marg Rosenblatt, COO for the JCC. The night before, the JCC had held a Community Chanukah Celebration, and the menorah was “standing straight and tall and strong,” she said. By morning, several of the “arms” holding bulbs hung limp and broken.

“We found it when we opened at 5:30 a.m.,” said Rosenblatt. “We brought it in, repaired it, and it was back up in 45 minutes.”

According to Margate Police Detective Tom Taroncher, Monday’s incident was the fourth time this holiday season that someone had vandalized an outdoor electric menorah in Margate by cutting wires, smashing bulbs, or breaking the chanukiah’s metal arms.

All prior incidents involved the menorah standing just outside of the Margate recreation complex on Jerome and Amherst Avenues. On the previous occasions, “they knocked it over and cut the wire,” said Patrick Power, Margate’s deputy director of public works, which put up the decoration.

Monday’s vandalism caused $5,000 worth of damage to public works’ menorah decorations, he noted. The recreation complex menorah, which was almost identical to the JCC menorah, had four arms broken, and the smaller pier menorah was knocked over. Since then, the pier menorah has been restored and the recreation complex menorah has been replaced by a smaller menorah decoration placed high up on a light pole, hopefully out of the vandal’s reach, said Power.

The crimes have prompted more frequent monitoring and surveillance by police, said Taroncher. He added that because these crimes apparently target a specific religion, they are being called “bias incidents” and will involve more severe penalties than if they were just incidents of vandalism.

“If anyone sees anything suspicious, let us know,” he stressed.

“There is no room in Margate for behavior like this,” said Margate Mayor Michael Becker. “It’s just horrible. There is an ongoing investigation and hopefully we’ll get to the bottom of this very soon,” he noted.

JCC CEO Jack Fox said he believed the incidents were likely the result of a single individual seeking attention “who obviously needs some help.” Notably, the incidents did nothing to disrupt Chanukah or other activities held at the JCC.

“Chanukah is a holiday of hope and miracles and I’m not going to let one vandal ruin it for us,” said Fox.

A statement on the JCC Facebook page posted midday December 18 said: “We are deeply saddened by the vandalism of various menorahs throughout our community. We are working with the Margate Police Department to support their investigation. The JCC has security measures in place that were developed in consultation with State and Federal officials to ensure the safety of our members.” 

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