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Police investigating ‘act of hatred’ after man on bike allegedly pushed over menorah on Cambridge Common

Cambridge police are investigating a possible hate crime after a man on Sunday allegedly pushed over a large menorah that was set up on the Cambridge Common, just outside the heart of Harvard Square.

According to Cambridge police spokesman Jeremy Warnick, the department’s Criminal Investigations Unit is looking into the incident, which was first reported by Universal Hub.

Warnick said that around 3:30 p.m. two witnesses watched as a white male dressed in black and riding a black bicycle dismounted before walking over to the menorah and pushing it down.

“Afterwards, he got back onto his bicycle and rode off through the Cambridge Commons towards Waterhouse Street,” Warnick said in a statement.


Sunday marked the first night of Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday celebration that lasts eight days.

In a video posted to Twitter after the alleged vandalism, a group of people can be seen standing around the large menorah — two of its lights lit yellow — before banding together to lift it back into place.

Lillian Carrasquillo, who took the video that has been viewed more than 4,000 times, said witnesses saw the suspect topple the menorah “with intent.”

“We gathered some strangers to help us put it back up,” Carrasquillo wrote. “Then the older Jewish gentleman said a Hanukkah prayer.”

In a statement, Cambridge Mayor Marc C. McGovern said the incident does “not represent Cambridge or its people.”

“The Mayor’s Office considers the toppling of the menorah as an act of hatred,” he said. “Prejudice-based acts of vandalism and desecration normalize violence and hatred, which is why Cambridge stands in opposition to such animus and remains vigilant to the slightest offense.”

Vice Mayor Jan Devereux said in an e-mail Monday that she was “shocked and saddened” by the report.


The city issues a permit to a private organization for the menorah on the Common. It’s not a city display, according to a city spokesman.

Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi, founder and director of Chabad at Harvard, the organization in charge of the display, said a gathering will be held at 5 .p.m. Thursday., in response to the menorah being vandalized.

“Until then, we will increase in light as the Chanukah holiday calls us to do,” he said in an e-mail to the Globe.

The vandalism comes as a rash of anti-Semitic incidents have hit communities across the state and country.

In November, a Needham resident reported to police that she spotted a box truck with a swastika and the word “Hitler” spray-painted on it as she traveled through town.

Meanwhile, residents in Reading have been grappling with a spate of swastikas and hate speech found scrawled in schools and in other parts of the community.

Last week, a 6-foot-tall menorah was stolen from Temple Emeth in Brookline and discarded less than a mile away in West Roxbury. Police said it’s possible that someone wanted to sell the menorah for scrap metal.

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear. Emily Sweeney of the Globe staff contributed to this report.