OLNEY, Md. - Montgomery County Police are investigating a Menorah vandalized outside a synagogue in Olney hours before Hanukkah celebrations were set to begin Thursday night.
Montgomery County police say officers were called to Chabad of Olney on Georgia Avenue around 4:30 p.m. where they found the synagogue’s menorah tipped over and damaged.
An eyewitness called the concerning act in to police, according to the synagogue’s Rabbi Bentzy Stolik.
"This event, on the eve of Hannukah, is obviously very distressing to the Jewish community. Word got out very fast in our small and wonderful community of Olney, Maryland, and texts and phone calls of support started flooding in within minutes," Stolik wrote in a statement.
He says despite the act of vandalism, the community came together and within hours, came up with a temporary fix so Thursday night’s celebrations could continue.
The Rabbi also told FOX 5 he is talking with Montgomery County Police about having extra security at the Hanukkah gathering planned for Olney Town Center this coming Tuesday.
FOX 5 reached out to the police department, also inquiring about greater security plans throughout the Hanukkah holiday.
"We are very aware a lot of people are on edge and deservedly concerned about what’s happening throughout the country, especially since Israel declared war against Hamas. We want to make sure that the community knows, we are increasing patrols, we have increased patrols since the war began," said Shiera Goff, the Montgomery County Police Spokeswoman.
Montgomery, D.C., and Fairfax County Police all confirmed they’re still maintaining that increased security posture not just at Synagogues but at Mosques and other houses of worship as well.
Across the country, the Jewish Community Relations Council for Greater Washington’s executive director tells FOX 5 acts of antisemitism are up 400% this year. The JCRC’s executive director says he’s also involved in guiding discussions of possibly hiring off duty police officers to add to security as well.
However, JCRC Executive Director Ron Halber tells FOX 5 just as important to security is the messaging – the uniformed denunciation by leaders and those who are looked-up to.
"That’s the important message that we have to keep hammering out, which is that antisemitism is not acceptable bigotry is not acceptable, racism is not acceptable, and it has to be constantly repeated and annunciated or the purveyors of hate think that they have won the day. In other words, we want to set out a community message so anybody who would even think about doing it would realize that their act is not considered acceptable by the mains stream of society," said Halber.
Montgomery County Police also made clear; they have not received any threats since Israel declared war on Hamas on October 7.
Halber, when asked if he was aware of any area threats, told FOX 5 the toppling of the Menorah in Olney has impacted many across the region’s Jewish communities.
"For the Jewish community, acts like these, don't slow us down, or cause us to run away and hide. To the contrary, it inspires us to want to ensure that the light of our menorahs and the fight for freedom to celebrate our religion and faith are only strengthened," Stolik wrote.
He says the synagogue is hosting a Hanukkah celebration at the Olney Town Center next Tuesday, and they are expecting a large turnout.
"While some are bent on causing darkness, we encourage everyone to take part in adding light. For Jews - light menorahs at window every night of chanukah! For all people - increase in goodness of kindness during these times!"
Mongomery County Police bias reporting data shows from October 7 to the end of November, around 43 Anti-Jewish incidents alone were reported to the department this year, compared to just nine in that same period last year.
Police say there are no suspects in custody at this time. Anyone with information should contact them.