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A menorah in Brookline is stolen, then repaired, and now shines a light anew

Michael Hynes (left), who was assisted in the repairs by Pedro Panzavecchia (center), joined Rabbi Alan Turetz.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

BROOKLINE — The two men met face to face Thursday for the first time, the longtime rabbi and the Irish-Catholic owner of an auto repair shop, swapping emotional reminiscences of the day one year ago when their lives intersected.

“All you need is a little light to illuminate the darkness,” said Rabbi Alan Turetz, the spiritual leader of Temple Emeth in Chestnut Hill for 43 years. “Light is everything.”

It’s a light that shines anew from a 500-pound menorah that thieves ripped from the temple’s rotunda in November 2018 and left bent and broken on a West Roxbury street. And it’s a light that shines in Michael Hynes, the nearby business owner who repaired and restored the 6-foot-high candelabrum after it was recovered.


And on Friday evening, two days before the beginning of Hanukkah, the refurbished menorah will be rededicated in a ceremony that will honor Hynes and others for reaching out to the congregation, unbidden, during a time of confusion and need.

For Turetz, it’s a story that has reaffirmed his faith in people’s goodness.

“The human heart is basically unfathomable,” Turetz said, smiling broadly across a table at Hynes.

Brookline police dusted for fingerprints in November 2018. DAVID L. RYAN/file/Globe Staff

The loss of the menorah, one of two that have greeted Temple Emeth congregants since 1948, was a heavy blow at a time when reported hate crimes are rising across the United States. But what was feared to be an anti-Semitic act appears to have been a desperate act by bungling thieves who stole the menorah for its copper.

Wrested from cement in the dead of night, the menorah apparently was chained to a pickup truck or other large vehicle and dragged down West Roxbury Parkway for about a mile before being discarded.

The menorah was recognized by homeowners, the temple and police were notified, and Hynes soon learned of the brazen theft through media reports.


Hynes knew of the synagogue, but he had never been inside the building at Putterham Circle. “I’d driven past it a million times. My favorite Chinese restaurant is nearby,” he said with a chuckle.

Hynes was quick to respond when he heard of the crime.

“I called and said, ‘I’m the neighbor down the street, and I’d be happy to help you out,’ ” Hynes recalled. “I had looked at it and thought they’d have a really hard time fixing it up.”

From left to right: Pedro Panzavecchia, Rabbi Alan Turetz, and Michael J. Hynes inside the temple where Panzavecchia and Hynes will be honored. JESSICA RINALDI/Globe Staff

Cynthia Levitt, the temple’s executive director, took the call.

“This was out of the blue. I didn’t know his name at all, where his place was,” Levitt said, shaking her head at the memory. “We wanted to pay, and he insisted no.”

Like a project foreman, Hynes went to work. His co-owner, Pedro Panzavecchia, is a skilled metalworker who took on the difficult task of reshaping the seven lamps and twisted arms of the imposing menorah.

“I feel good, happy, when we do something like that,” said Panzavecchia, an immigrant from Argentina. “In the world, there are so many things that happen that are bad.”

Glen Campbell, a Boston firefighter friend of Hynes’s, did the tricky electrical work. And Hynes somehow persuaded a contractor laying a driveway at his Brookline home to pop down to the temple and set a concrete foundation for the restored menorah.

All the work took more than a month. “I really didn’t think much about it,” Hynes said. “It was within our resources. It’s what a neighbor does.”


Hynes said he is humbled that many congregants have stopped by his business to thank him. He’s a first-generation American whose parents came from Galway, but Temple Emeth has become part of his extended family.

“I have a friend here now,” Hynes said, looking across at Turetz.

The rabbi echoed that sentiment, warmly rendered on a bitterly cold day.

“This represents the light of the human spirit. It represents courage” when divisions are widening, Turetz said. “They are like walking menorahs.”

Hynes wasn’t quite sure what to make of the comparison. “I’ve been called a lot of things, but never that,” he said with a laugh.

The repaired menorah sits outside of Temple Emeth in Chestnut Hill after Mike Hynes and Hernan Panzavecchia fixed it free of charge. JESSICA RINALDI/Globe Staff

Turetz said he expects a large crowd at the rededication, which will be followed by a reception for Hynes, Panzavecchia, and Campbell. With the eight days of Hanukkah set to begin Sunday evening, the ceremony seemed well-matched to the season.

“We thought it would be a perfect time to honor Mike and Pedro and Glen for stepping up to the plate at a time of such dangerousness and violence in America, not only for Jews who are being assaulted, but all over,” Turetz said.

Hynes said he is a bit anxious about the ceremony, when he will stand in the Temple Emeth sanctuary before the congregation. One of his children has rescheduled a flight from London, where she works, to attend the rededication. Another child will be there, as well.

“Are you going to have a yarmulke big enough for this dome?” Hynes asked the rabbi, signaling the need for an extra-large cap.


Turetz returned the grin, waved his hand, and assured his friend that he’d be accommodated.

“Selflessness,” he told a visitor, “moves me more than ever before.”

Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at brian.macquarrie@globe.com.