This story was updated 2:35 p.m. Dec. 30, 2013.
A 5-foot-tall homemade menorah glowed on the lawn of the Robin family of Germantown every season for five years. This year, with Hanukkah celebrated earlier than usual, it was lit for a month, but then it disappeared sometime before dawn Dec. 24.
“We’ve had it up for about a month already,” said Nelson Robin, the menorah’s owner. “It seems bizarre that someone would wait until Christmas Eve to take it.”
The menorah’s disappearance is only part of its bizarre story. It also reappeared, in pieces, in the yard of a family a few miles from the Robins’ home, along with pieces of a large Nativity scene, Robin said.
It disappeared from that yard late Christmas Eve and reappeared there Thursday, along with a note and some cash.
Robin said he does not know about the Nativity scene, but is glad to have most of his menorah back.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster since Wednesday,” he said Thursday.
The homeowners where the menorah ended up, he said, do not know who took it, who returned it or why it was on their lawn. Robin said they live in a different neighborhood, about 2 miles from his home. The Gazette was unable to reach the homeowners.
Robin said he learned the whereabouts of his disassembled menorah through “friends of friends” who knew his menorah was missing and where it was found. Unfortunately, he said, when he went to retrieve it Christmas morning it was gone, but when he heard it was back Thursday morning, his wife went and gathered the pieces.
“Along with the pieces were a note and some cash,” Robin said.
He said he showed the note to police and they asked him not to share the message or the amount of cash they received.
Robin filed a police report on the missing menorah Christmas Eve when he came home from work and noticed it was gone. He also posted the information on his neighborhood listserv, which is what he believes connected him with the menorah when it appeared about 2 miles away.
Robin said he asked the police to investigate the theft as a hate crime. However, he said, he has never received any hate mail or disparaging remarks about his annual display.
He said he felt it was a hate crime because the menorah is a Jewish religious symbol and it was stolen the day before Christmas, a Christian holiday. He also said he felt it was a hate crime because it was left in pieces next to a Nativity scene.
Mansfield Kaseman, interfaith community liaison for the office of Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, said he heard about the incident from a member of his group and got in touch with the police and through them was able to get in touch with the Robins.
“This is divisive and frightening,” Kaseman said.
He said he has called the Robin family and will, along with a group from the interfaith community, meet with the Robins Monday night.
“We want to be supportive of the family, to be there to let them know that in Montgomery County we don’t tolerate any act of hate or violence,” he said.
Montgomery County police spokesman Robert Ladany said Thursday that police were still investigating.
Robin and his daughter Rachel, then 8, built the menorah in 2008. It is made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, pipe with the lights inside acrylic drinking glasses to represent the candles’ flames. The lights are lit each night by a computer program Robin and Rachel wrote.