(JTA) – Four Penn State University students are being charged with stealing a 9-foot menorah from the home of the campus Chabad rabbi and leaving it damaged outside a traditionally Jewish fraternity.
The students, who were caught on surveillance camera footage late last month placing the damaged menorah on the porch of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, reportedly are members of other campus fraternities.
State College Police said Monday that they had filed charges against the students, including misdemeanor counts of theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief. They are scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 20.
Rabbi Hershy Gourarie, co-director of Chabad of the Undergrads at Penn State, told The Daily Collegian that the menorah was too damaged to be repaired and would cost about $1,800 to fix.
“I hope that this is a time of introspection for the four suspects. At the right time, I would like to meet with them to educate and heal,” Gourarie said in a statement that also thanked the State College police.
“In response to this act of ignorance, we have resolved to take steps to raise awareness of Jewish history and traditions to the broader campus community and to increase the pride of our Jewish heritage among the Jewish student body,” the statement also said.
The Penn State Chabad has launched a “Light with Love Campaign,” which will host campus events to “promote peace and diversity” and place menorahs around campus. Funding is planned through a GoFundMe campaign.
Sigma Alpha Mu, which was founded as a strictly Jewish fraternity and still has a large Jewish membership on campuses across the country, also is planning to light a menorah in front of its house on Hanukkah.
University officials released a statement in reaction to the menorah theft as well as other recent hate acts on campus.
“In the last few weeks alone, actions such as stealing and damaging a Jewish Menorah, reports of racial slurs, and activity by white supremacy groups have occurred on or near our campuses,” according to the statement.
“We condemn these actions and will hold students and others involved accountable where we can, including restitution for damage. We do not support nor do we condone racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, homophobic or other discriminatory messages or actions. Nor will we allow our University community to become a place where offensive words and behaviors take root. We will continue to condemn hate-filled speech and action by any individual or group that aims to incite fear or create divisiveness.” the statement also said.