This past Chanukah season is one that the Hoff family of Federal Hill will never forget. And that in itself is a testament to faith and resilience.
On the first night of the holiday, Sunday, Nov. 28, Tracy and Michael Hoff and their children, Madison, 12, and Ashton, 9, lit menorahs in their front room and opened the curtains for public display, as custom dictates. “We always open our curtains so everyone can see our menorahs,” said Tracy, a Pikesville native who works at an accounting firm.
After reciting the blessings and exchanging presents, they all went into other rooms when a rock suddenly crashed through their front window and landed on the hardwood floor of the living room.
“It was about 10 minutes after we left the room — my husband was making potato latkes — when we heard this crash and said, ‘What in the heck was that?!’” said Tracy. “Thankfully, nobody was in the room, not even our dog.”
Tracy said she rushed out the front door and into the street, where passersby going to the nearby Ravens game informed her they saw a teenage male throw the rock and run.
Baltimore City Police officers called to the house agreed with the Hoffs — who belong to Pikesville’s Beth Tfiloh Congregation — that the incident was a hate crime. (This local act of vandalism took place during a Chanukah season when hate crimes rose and many public menorahs around the country and world were defaced or desecrated.)
“Our house was the only one in the neighborhood affected,” Tracy said. “We’re practically the only Jewish people on our block. I’m 100 percent sure [it was a hate-motivated crime].”
Tracy said the police told her they had no leads in the case. (The Hoffs did not have a camera positioned at the front of their house at that time.)
Fortunately, the perpetrator tossed the rock through the top half of the window and narrowly missed the family’s main menorah.
“Thank God he did because we have an oil-based menorah and the house would’ve been set on fire,” Tracy said, noting that her family has never been subjected to any anti-Semitic incidents during their 15 years of residing in Federal Hill. “But shattered glass was everywhere. It was a mess.”
Tracy said replacing the window of her 19th-century home will probably cost approximately $600, which is not covered by insurance.
But the emotional cost of the incident exceeds the financial. “It was hard. I was rattled and disturbed by it,” she said. “What did that prove? What was the point? You damage someone’s property because you just feel like it? What goes through someone’s head?”
Tracy said she and her husband sat down with their children to discuss the matter and alleviate their concerns.
“Madison was scared in the beginning, but she’s OK now. She’s a strong individual,” Tracy said. “Ashton was a little phased, but he’s a boy. He was fine and went onto the next thing.”
The Hoffs — whose children attend Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School — felt it was important that the vandal not in any way disrupt or curtail the rest of their celebration of the Festival of Lights this year.
“We just opened the curtains and lit the menorah every night,” Tracy said. “We wouldn’t let it stop us.”
In a similar vein, the Hoffs decided to post a notice on Facebook about their ordeal, and invited friends and family to their home on the fourth night of Chanukah, Dec. 1, for a menorahs lighting and desserts gathering.
“I hope we can use the light and love to drive out the darkness and hate,” Michael Hoff wrote in the post.
Approximately 40 people attended the Chanukah soiree, including Federal Hill neighbors and friends and family members from Pikesville.
Despite the meanspirited nature of the incident, Tracy said her family continues to love and cherish their South Baltimore neighborhood.
“Crime will happen anywhere you go. Hatred will happen anywhere you go,” she said. “But I’m not going to let this make me move out. We have a great neighborhood, and people here really watch out for each other.
“It sucks, but we won’t let this stop us.”