by Geoff Rushton
Four Penn State students have been charged for allegedly stealing and damaging a menorah that was in front of a State College rabbi’s home.
According to a criminal complaint filed by State College Police, the 9-foot menorah, which was valued at more than $1,000, was believed to have been stolen from the front lawn of the Hetzel Street residence in the early morning hours of Oct. 28. It was then left damaged on the front porch of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, which is historically Jewish.
Rabbi Hershy Gourarie, co-director of Chabad of Penn State and the owner of the menorah, told the Centre County Gazette before the suspects were charged that he discovered the menorah was missing and because he was observing the Sabbath and could not use his cell phone, he walked to State College Police headquarters to make a report. On his way, he found the menorah in front of the fraternity.
During the police investigation, surveillance video footage from Sigma Alpha Mu showed four males carrying the menorah and placing it on the fraternity’s front porch, according to the complaint.
The four males were identified as Vincent T. Morisco, of Woodland Park, N.J.; Henry S. Dardaris, of Newtown, Pa.; Brandon M. Steidley, of State College; and Kyle A. McCarthy, of Avondale, Pa.
Police said all four were interviewed and provided statements about their involvement in the theft.
Each was charged with misdemeanor counts of theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief – damaging property. They were arraigned via summons on Thursday by District Judge Carmine Prestia and preliminary hearings are scheduled for Dec. 20.
Gourarie said that members of Sigma Alpha Mu “were very upset and hurt about being targeted.”
“I told them the proper response as a Jewish community is to respond with light and love,” Gourarie said. “The menorah is a symbol of light and only light gets rid of darkness.”
Gourarie plans on meeting with the defendants and hopes to give them an opportunity for introspection.
“The power of forgiveness is real,” Gourarie said, adding that he hopes the suspects can become leading examples of being responsible for one’s actions.
He also is planning on holding events in the coming months with members of the community and members of Sigma Alpha Mu, such as a menorah-lighting ceremony, but he said nothing is concrete yet.