By Tamar Runyan, chabad.org
Two weeks after the theft of a Holocaust memorial candelabra, investigators in Pervomaisk, Ukraine, are still hunting for suspects. According to Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Levi Perelstein, the city’s chief rabbi, and other local Jews, the disappearance of the metal sculpture has left the community on edge.
“I am full of disgust, extreme disbelief and extreme disappointment [at this] barbaric act,” said Pervomaisk resident Boris Fershtman. “Was this an [isolated incident] or is something more serious coming?”
The seven-branched candelabra was modeled after the menorah used thousands of years ago in the Holy Temples in Jerusalem.
After discovering the menorah missing just after Simchat Torah, Perelstein and community chairman Mikhail Shefkin immediately called the police and filed a criminal complaint. Perelstein pegged the value of the piece, which was erected nine years ago at a memorial marking a mass grave of Holocaust victims, at thousands of dollars.
Authorities have yet to determine if the theft was an act of anti-Semitism, but in recent months, unknown vandals have scrawled anti-Semitic graffiti at the site.
“This is not pleasant for the locals,” said Perelstein. “The menorah is a symbol of Judaism. That the crime took place at a memorial dedicated to tolerance and peace made it that much worse.”
Every spring, the community gathers at the Pervamaisk memorial to remember the victims of the Holocaust.