LOS ANGELES (Dec. 22)
Vandals trashed a Chanukah display in Mission Viejo, Calif., while leaving three adjacent Christmas scenes untouched, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department reported.
Wooden signs showing a menorah and Star of David were yanked from the ground and scattered in the town, which lies about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.
None of the signs were damaged beyond repair and no graffiti messages were left by the vandals.
The Sheriff’s Department is checking with the district attorney to determine if the vandalism can be prosecuted as a hate crime.
Rabbi Bradley Artson of Temple Eilat said that Jews in the town were often the targets of anti-Semitic acts and comments.
“I take this vandalism pretty seriously,” he said. “Too many kids are being allowed to think that this type of behavior is acceptable.
“We have eggs thrown at our (congregants’) homes and Nazi symbols drawn on their property. It doesn’t happen consistently enough to be pervasive, but it occurs more than just occasionally.”
But Philip Serrins, a leader of the volunteer group that puts up both the Christmas and Chanukah displays each year, said he didn’t believe the vandalism was related to Judaism or anti-Semitism.
“I feel this was a hormonal type of activity from some misdirected kids. It certainly isn’t reflective of this community,” he said.
Mayor Robert Breton of Mission Viejo said he would ask the city council to post a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the vandals.
Meanwhile, a menorah figured in a less destructive but more protracted dispute in Beverly Hills, in what has become an annual legal battle between Chabad of California and the American Jewish Congress.
The focus of the dispute is a 27-foot menorah designed by Israeli artist Yaacov Agam, which Chabad tries to light every Chanukah on a public lot next to the Beverly Hills City Hall.
The AJCongress opposes the lighting on public property on the grounds that this violates the constitutional separation between church and state.
This time around, U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter ruled in favor of Lubavitch, though mandating that the menorah be in close proximity to a Christmas tree of equal height and that both must be lit at the same time.
In a previous legal confrontation between the same antagonists, the court ruled that another Lubavitch menorah could be displayed, but not lit, next to a Christmas tree in the rotunda of the Los Angeles City Hall.