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Menorah Vandalized Near Northwestern Campus

Menorah Damaged

The menorah outside a Jewish center near the Northwestern University campus was vandalized over the weekend. (CBS)

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Updated: 11/01/10 5:38 p.m.

EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) – A menorah was damaged in front of a Jewish center near the Northwestern University campus on Saturday night — just one day after Chicago’s Jewish community learned it may have been the target of international terrorism.

Northwestern police confirmed the vandalism was discovered Sunday in front of the Tannenbaum Chabad House at 1014 Orrington Ave.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Regine Schlesinger Reports

Nine light bulbs were damaged and one arm of the menorah was broken off. Was it Halloween eve vandalism or a hate crime?

CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez talked to local Jewish leaders who say, either way, it hurts.

Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein said the vandalism came as a shock.

“They saw it, they targeted it, they vandalized it and they moved on,” said Rabbi Klein.

Rabbi Klein was replacing several smashed bulbs on the menorah on Monday. He says vandals left them hanging by their wires, and ripped an arm from the menorah sometime Saturday night.

“I was extremely saddened. I was embarrassed for our community here. I felt a sense of violation,” said Rabbi Klein.

He said the vandalism was more than just a Halloween prank because “it shows a lack of sensitivity and understanding for the religion.”

Rabbi Klein and all Chicago Jewish institutions were already on alert, after the thwarted terror attacks over the weekend. But they don’t believe this is at all related.

Dan Elbaum, Director of the American Jewish Committee in Chicago said: “As the eyes of the world turned to Chicago because of the global terrorist threat, to have a domestic act of vandalism against a very visible Jewish Institution at one of our nation’s most prestigious universities, is something that’s very threatening.”

Rabbi Klein says the attack on his group’s symbol is ironic.

“The menorah represents the idea of dispelling darkness … that with a little bit of light, you’re able to dispel darkness and bring a sense of love and hope to all of mankind,” he said.

“There’s a tendency by some to look at an act like this and say, ‘it was Halloween on a college campus’ and dismiss it as youthful hijinx, but what we have here is something more serious,” Elbaum said.

And hurtful. If it turns out the center was targeted, whoever tried to destroy this religious symbol could face felony hate crime charges.

Evanston Police say, for now, they’re investigating this as a property vandalism crime. There are no suspects at this time.
 
Rabbi Klein said in his 25 years on the Northwestern campus, this is the second time the menorah has been vandalized. He said the school will use the incident as a teaching moment with a school-wide forum on tolerance Tuesday night.

CBS 2′s Roseanne Tellez, Newsradio 780′s Regine Schlesinger and the Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.