Updated at 7:20 p.m. on May 14 to include surveillance video of the incident that was released by the Town of Elon Police Department on Thursday evening.
The menorah posted outside of Elon University’s Chabad off-campus house was torn down late Tuesday night. In a statement to Elon News Network, Rabbi Mendy Minkowitz said this was an act of vandalism.
Minkowitz said the incident was caught on camera. According to a Facebook post from Chabad, and later a press release from the Town of Elon Police Department, the video shows an unidentified individual stop in front of the Chabad house and exit their car, tear down the Menorah, get back in their car and then drive away.
Town of Elon police released the video footage of the incident on Thursday evening.
The security cameras that caught the incident were installed in October after the car was damaged as a way to increase already-existing security. Minkowitz said if not for these cameras, the incident would not have been captured as clearly as it was and Chabad will now most likely have to increase their security even more.
According to Minkowitz, a police report was filed with the Town of Elon Police Department. The department said they are investigating the incident as a hate crime in a statement on May 14.
The department said the police report is not available yet.
Police officers from the Town of Elon Police Department were also stationed outside the Chabad house on May 14 handing out flyers to cars driving by in hopes for assistance in the investigation. It is asking people with information to call the police department or Crimestoppers at (336) 229-7100.
Minkowitz lives in the Chabad house with his wife and three children. In October 2019, a car outside the Chabad house was damaged by a gunshot during services to mark the end of Yom Kippur.
While Minkowitz said his two youngest children are too young to understand what’s going on, he said his oldest son is aware of the incident but is not alarmed by the increase in police presence because “we’ve had it all year long.”
“It’s also important to maintain a sense of normalcy,” Minkowitz said. “If going to Chabad starts becoming [like] walking into a warzone, and you have to come in your armored vehicle and you have to wear a gas mask, that's not exactly what we want and not exactly what we need.”
Minkowitz has received several phone calls of support from members of Elon University’s administration including President Connie Book and Vice President for Student Life Jon Dooley.
Chabad is raising money to cover the damages done to the menorah. Minkowitz said that he is “warmed by the response” from students and parents after the incident.
“I’m awestruck because I heard from so many students that I had never met before,” Minkowitz said. “Students that I had never crossed paths with in the past, both Jewish and not Jewish. Not only did I hear from students, students went on our website and made a donation of whatever amount.”
To donate, visit chabadelon.com/donate and write “Menorah” in the comments.