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Relighting Ceremony Held For Menorah Knocked Over In Upper East Side Park

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Hate crime detectives are investigating after a menorah was knocked over two nights in a row at an Upper East Side park.

Police believe the menorah at Carl Schurz Park was toppled on purpose both Saturday and Sunday nights.

The menorah is in a section of the park near the water and it didn't appear that there were security cameras nearby, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported.

"There's no way it came down by accident, it kind of sat on a platform and clearly somebody pushed it over," Alex Goldstein, who lives in the area, told 1010 WINS.

Goldstein said he couldn't believe the menorah had been knocked down just hours after the lighting of the first candle for Chanukah. 

"I was just shocked when I saw it toppled over," Goldstein said. "There was damage to the different branches of the menorah."

Celebratory sounds echoed through Carl Schurz Park as Rabbi Elie Weinstock of the Congretation Kehilath Jeshurun held an unprecedented lighting of the 100-pound menorah on Monday night, WCBS 880's Kelly Waldron reported.

"It was a time to call the community back to add some light to darkness," Weinstock said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was on hand to re-light the menorah and said it's important to stand up for what's right.

"This is the epitome of who we are because even when confronted by hatred, by division, we stand up, we show our strength, we show our resilience, de Blasio said.

The mayor announced that the NYPD is investigating the incidents as possible hate crimes.

"When we see an act of prejudice, when we see an act of hate, we must respond to it," he said.

Police said they don't have any surveillance video or witnesses. They believe the same person is responsible for both incidents.

It's not just menorahs that are being vandalized. Vandals have also targeted nativity scenes at churches across the city.

In SoHo one church has gone to extreme lengths to protect the baby Jesus.

St. Anthony of Padua Church, on Sullivan Street installed a metal plate and padlock on the back of their baby Jesus figurine. It's chained to the manger.

The church had a different statue stolen just before Thanksgiving, and has had the baby Jesus taken in the past.

"It's sad to see because we work hard on this and somebody comes along and ruins it. It's real sad to see," Jose Santiago, St. Anthony's Church Manager, said.

The church has installed video cameras that even caught the statue thief in action last month. The statue was returned on Thanksgiving Day.

In Carl Schurz park there are no video cameras to watch over the menorah, but neighbors and the NYPD will do just that.

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