An online fundraiser has been created to buy a taller menorah for Medford use
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
Following two incidents of vandalism to a menorah in Medford, the co-directors of Chabad Jewish Center of Southern Oregon in Ashland have plans to keep the lights shining even brighter and taller for the Festival of Lights in 2023.
Rabbi Avi Zwiebel and his wife, Faigy, are raising money to replace a menorah used at a Dec. 20 menorah lighting at Medford’s Hanukkah celebration at Vogel Plaza the week of Hanukkah, which this year fell between Dec. 18 and Dec. 26.
“Our message remains the same: Light is stronger than darkness and even a little light can illuminate the darkest night,” read the message on a GoFundMe page set up to raise funds for a replacement menorah. “We are being called upon to shine an even greater light. To commission an even taller and more luminescent Menorah.”
Medford Police reported in a Facebook post on Dec. 29 that the first incident of vandalism occurred around 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, 2022. Medford Police officers were dispatched to 200 E. Main St., Vogel Plaza, for reported vandalism.
“It was described that a male subject pushed over a light display,” read the post. “Medford officers arrived on scene and confirmed the suspect had pushed over a Hanukkah menorah light fixture, shattering the bulbs.”
Officers located and arrested Isaiah Cleveland, 24, at the scene, who police said admitted to the vandalism.
“He knocked over the display because he was angry and he wanted to go back to jail,” the arresting officer wrote in his report.
Cleveland was booked into the Jackson County Jail for Disorderly Conduct II and Criminal Mischief II. At the time of arrest, the suspect gave no indication that his actions were antisemitic, according to police. The case is now under the jurisdiction of the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
The Mail Tribune reported that Cleveland was lodged at the jail at 1:20 a.m. on Dec. 24, and was released on his own recognizance by 7 a.m. that same day.
On Dec. 27, 2022, it was reported the same Hanukkah menorah was vandalized for a second time, this time requiring it to be fully replaced.
Zwiebel said Cleveland was also arrested for allegedly committing the second act of vandalism as well. No second arrest was shown in online records as of Tuesday, Jan. 3.
“It wasn’t a hate crime per se,” Zwiebel told Ashland.news in a phone interview.
“It wasn’t related to … antisemitism,” he added. “Will need to replace it and we did start a fund.”
As of Tuesday evening, the GoFundMe driver had raised more than $1,500 of the $6,200 goal to replace the menorah with what Zwiebel hopes will be a taller and even brighter version.
“It’s really nice seeing the community supporting and rallying behind us,” Zwiebel said.
In a followup email following his phone interview with Ashland.news, Zwiebel shared more sentiments about moving forward from the incidents.
“The message of Hanukkah is universal, of adding goodness and kindness,” he said. “The menorah symbolizes the message of light over darkness, good over evil and freedom over oppression. Today this message is relevant more than ever.
“Over the years the annual menorah lightings in Ashland and Medford have increased in participation and is a beautiful event that brings the wider community together in celebration,” he added.
The Medford menorah was one of three put up by Chabad during Hanukkah. The others were in Grants Pass and Ashland.
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at firstname.lastname@example.org.