The first surveillance video — some of it in black and white, some in color — shows a young man on the move.
Dressed in a black T-shirt, shorts and a backwards baseball cap, the man, who appears to be in his late teens or early 20s, runs across Tomlinson Road, grabs a large metal menorah off of the front lawn of Congregation Beth Solomon, and runs off with it. Throughout, he’s carrying a flagpole under his arm.
The video was made at 3 a.m. on Aug. 20, and shows a group of people walking in the background as the man perpetrates the theft. The man was apparently part of that group. Northeast Detectives released the video to the public in the hopes that the menorah would be returned.
“It got a lot of media coverage in the last night, I was hoping somebody would come forward,” said the 7th District’s Lt. Dennis Rosenbaum, who speculated that taking the religious symbol was just a drunken prank. “They were stealing stuff all up and down the street,” he said of the group in the video, who also took a bike in addition to the flagpole.
Rabbi Solomon Isaacson, who founded Congregation Beth Solomon, said, “It’s a very emotional thing because it was donated by someone in memory of his mother,” adding that the menorah is an important symbol of Judaism in the neighborhood.
He said he did not believe the theft was an anti-Semitic incident, however.
“There was no malicious intent. It was just kids having a good time,” he said. “Maybe they were high on dope, on marijuana.”
Both Lt. Rosenbaum and Rabbi Isaacson hoped that the media coverage would compel the group of friends to return to the menorah — and that seems to be exactly what happened.
A second surveillance video shows a different young man, his face blurred, returning the menorah in the middle of the night. When the rabbi arrived at 6 a.m. on Sept. 8, he saw it was back.
“We’re very pleased. It’s already being lit, and it’s being used again. Two bulbs were broken probably just in their schlepping it around,” he said, but noted that otherwise it’s in good shape. “We’re overjoyed.”
The police continue to investigate the theft.
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