Oakland's largest menorah to be even bigger with 24-hour security in 2024, Jewish Center says

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Thursday, December 14, 2023
Oakland's largest menorah to be even bigger in 2024: Jewish Center
Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland says next year's menorah will replace the 9-foot one lit for this year with a 13-foot one in 2024.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- There was a moment of prayer, hope and resilience, 24 hours after Oakland's largest menorah was destroyed and thrown in Lake Merritt on the sixth night of Hanukkah.

Oakland police are investigating the destruction of the menorah as a possible hate crime.

As of Thursday morning, no arrests or suspect information had been released yet.

"We decided that the response cannot be that we're going to cower, or hide. They cannot extinguish our soul. They cannot extinguish our light," said Rabbi Dovid Labkowski of the Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland.

RELATED: Hundreds rally in Oakland after Menorah destroyed, thrown into Lake Merritt in possible hate crime

Hundreds of people rallied together on this Hanukkah and made their way to Lake Merritt to replace and relight Oakland's largest Menorah.

So on Wednesday night, a replacement menorah was re-lit in the same place where the first one stood.

And before the lighting, there was a car parade, where vehicle after vehicle could be seen with menorahs on top of them showing signs of support and unity among the Jewish community and others.

"It was a beautiful show of unity, and to show that we're not going to hide when anti-semitism happens, but we're going to come out in large numbers and show how proud we are. We're not going to take off our symbols of Judaism. We're going to display them even more," Labkowski said.

They left it up until about 10 p.m. on Wednesday night.

The largest Menorah in Oakland was destroyed and tossed into Lake Merritt in the middle of Hanukkah.

But leaving the menorah out overnight wasn't a risk this rabbi was willing to take again.

So, they carefully took it down after the re-lighting ceremony before putting it back up again around 9 a.m. Thursday morning as people cheered from boats in Lake Merritt.

"I spoke yesterday to the people cleaning up here, and they said that the graffiti is put on every single day. They keep cleaning it up every single day," he said. "So, we feel like especially during this time, it wouldn't be safe to keep it up. Even if we had security there, I don't know if security would be enough to secure the menorah."

Not knowing Rabbi Labkowski and his team took it down overnight, Jake Wasserman out of Oakland went to bring possible security crews coffee around 3 a.m., until he noticed it wasn't there anymore.

MORE: 'Concerned and afraid': Jews celebrate Hanukkah amid rise in hate

"And so I went home and got some of my production stuff from installation work and came out, built up what I could with tripods and electric votive candles and stuff," Wasserman said.

He was inspired by a message of hope he heard during Wednesday night's ceremony.

"Things get knocked down in Oakland, and we put them back up again and that's how it goes," he said. "And so knowing their story is going around, it got knocked down and it got put back up again. I didn't like the idea of it looking like it had gone again."

As for next year, Rabbi Labkowski tells ABC7 News he already pre-ordered a 13-foot menorah to replace the 9-foot replacement menorah used this year.

And he says they will have 24 hour security.

The Oakland Police Department is asking anyone with information to contact the OPD General Crimes Section at (510)-238-3728.

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