On Sunday afternoon, about a dozen families gathered by the parking lot at the Key Food supermarket in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, to light a menorah in celebration of Hanukkah.
Invitations to the event said it was “the largest menorah” in the neighborhood, and though considerable in size, it was still three times smaller than the world’s largest menorah, which stands not too far, at Grand Army Plaza, in Park Slope.
By Monday, the menorah had vanished.
In October, a synagogue on Prospect Avenue was vandalized, and some residents began to wonder whether anti-Semitism might have had anything to do with the menorah’s disappearance. A letter from the synagogue’s rabbi, Moshe Hecht, which someone posted on KWTneighbors, a Yahoo group of the Kensington and Windsor Terrace neighborhoods, only fueled suspicions.
In the letter, the rabbi Moshe Hecht wrote, “Many have inquired regarding the whereabouts of our Menorah that had been previously been standing outside Key Food on Prospect Ave. The manager conveyed to us that he had received many ‘complaints’ from ‘customers’ about the Menorah (notwithstanding the fact that a xmas tree was in place near the Menorah as well). He therefore decided to take down the Menorah.”
The letter went on: “We are extremely disappointed by the manager’s decision and more dismayed by the apparent lack of neighborly respect for our holiday celebration. It would be very helpful for everyone to personally speak with the manager, Mike Jordings.”
And so they did, in person, by e-mail and by phone, and in numbers and tone that, at first, took Mr. Jordings by surprise.
One person wrote on the Yahoo message board, “I am truly saddened and outraged by this complete lack of support and respect.” Another one suggested that people stop patronizing the store – and several people wrote in endorsing the suggestion.
Mr. Jordings, meanwhile, was getting bombarded. “I’m a very festive person,” he said . “I thought I was doing the right thing when I put the menorah out there, but I got a lot of opinionated calls, and I decided to take it down.” (There are many Christmas decorations inside the store, including a Christmas tree.)
To be fair, Mr. Jordings also took down the Christmas tree; he said it was also the subject of criticism from some of those opinionated callers, though he would not reveal what they were complaining about.
“I’m a businessman, and I thought I would hurt my business,” Mr. Jordings said. “And I didn’t want any vandalism on the menorah or the Christmas tree, for that matter.”
As of Wednesday morning, the incident had made the pages of The Daily News and The Brooklyn Paper, was the subject of a report on 1010 WINS and was picked up by the blog Vos Iz Neias, which is widely read among Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn.
And although the online bantering continued – at last count, 26 messages had been posted on the online message board as of Wednesday morning, and at one point the name of the thread changed from “Key Food Menorah” to “anti-Semitism in our community” – Mr. Jordings was no longer the main target.
What the incident seems to have done is rouse a bit of soul-searching among at least some residents. As one of them posted on the message board: “It would have been nice if Mike felt that he was able to tell these anti-Semites to get lost, but the real question is, other than pontificating on the Internet, what are we, as community members, prepared to do about it?”
Mr. Jordings said he’d rather not offer any suggestions, but of one thing he’s certain: “You’re not going to see any religious symbols outside the store next year.”