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Did metal scavengers make off with Haddonfield menorah?

A day after a six-foot menorah was reported missing from a Haddonfield park, the third night of Hanukkah was celebrated as scheduled - with the public lighting of an even bigger menorah.

"It's painful," Rabbi Mendel Mangel, of Chabad Lubavitch of Cherry Hill, said of the apparent theft. But "we are going to respond by adding more good to world," he said.

The 18-year-old congregation has placed a menorah at Library Point at Haddon Avenue and Tanner Street every year for nearly a decade. On Thursday, the congregation lit its new, roughly 10-foot aluminum menorah in the park before a group of more than 50 people.

Mangel called the event "a great celebration of right over might, good over evil, light over darkness."

Haddonfield Police Chief John Banning said he believed the disappearance, reported at about noon on Wednesday, was the first criminal incident involving the menorah, which had not been recovered as of Thursday afternoon.

"There's no indication this is a hate crime of any sort, or a bias crime," Banning said. "We're treating it as a theft."

Banning said it was possible that metal scavengers took the menorah, which also was made of aluminum.

The Hanukkah symbol stood near a nativity scene and a decorated Christmas tree, which were untouched, Banning said. The menorah was one of about a half-dozen Chabad Lubavitch has erected around South Jersey, according to Mangel. The congregation paid between $1,500 and $1,600 to replace it, he said.

Haddonfield borough allows private groups to install religious displays in the prominent public site during the holidays.

Jews and non-Jews had emailed and called congregation leaders to express concern about the missing menorah, Mangel said. At least one person volunteered a donation and reward money, he said.

"It shows the goodness of people and it really speaks to the message of the candles," Mangel said.