Chisinau, Moldova - The Moldovan Orthodox Church on Wednesday blamed the local Jewish community for the recent rally in which a public menorah was torn down and a cross was put in its place.
During the December 13th incident, dozens of people led by an Orthodox priest smashed a menorah in Moldova's capital Chisinau, using hammers and iron bars to remove the candelabra during Hanukkah.
The 1.5 meter (5-foot)-tall ceremonial candelabrum was retrieved and reinstalled. The national government said in a statement that "hatred, intolerance and xenophobia" are unacceptable.
According to a report, published Monday by the Russian Interfax news agency, the church said in a statement, "We believe that this unpleasant incident in the center of the capital could have been avoided if the menorah had been placed near a memorial for victims of the Holocaust."
The church said it opposed the form of the protest, and that it respects "the feelings and belief of other cults that are legally registered on the territory of the Republic of Moldova, and expects a similar attitude from their side," according to the report.
"At the same time," the statement continued, "we think it inappropriate to put a symbol of the Jewish cult in a public place connected to the history and faith of our people, especially because Chanukah is classified by the cult books of Judaism as a 'holiday of blessing' that symbolizes the victory of Jews over non-Jews."
The local Jewish community was thriving before World War II but there are now estimated to be just 12,000 Jews in the former Soviet Republic. Twenty years ago there were 66,000 Jews. Many emigrated to Israel.
An anti-Semitic incident was also reported in Buenos Aires during Hanukkah. Rabbi Shlomo Kiesel of the Chabad house in the Argentine capital told Ynet that one of the city's public menorahs was desecrated and the words "Argentina is Catholic" were spray-painted near its base.
Kiesel said that despite the incident he does not believe the local Jewish community is in any kind of danger. "This is the first time such a thing has happened here, and while it is very unpleasant, it shouldn't be blown out of proportion. It must be understood that we are living in a Christian country where Jews account for less than one percent of the population.
"There will always be one extremist within a large society," said the rabbi. "There are over 20 menorahs throughout the city and only one was damaged. I do not believe this incident means that Argentine society is anti-Semitic."