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Saturday, December 23, 2006

War On Christmas - Take III

It's time for another installment of The War On Christmas, but (thank God), this time the grinch isn't a Jewish one:
Less than a week ago, a 20-foot evergreen Christmas tree in the local village park was alive with festive, flickering lights. And in recognition of the sizable Jewish population here celebrating Hanukkah, a nine-foot-tall menorah stood next to it. The display, an annual holiday tradition, was so bright it could be seen from blocks away.

But Henry Ritell, 79, the owner of a local chemicals marketing firm, said he now considered the Christmas tree a cultural symbol, associated more with the spirit of materialism than religion.

Earlier this year, Mr. Ritell, who is Roman Catholic, approached the Briarcliff board of trustees and offered to donate a two-foot-high Nativity scene — Holy Family, the wise men and shepherds — to the park.

So began the saga of the vanishing Briarcliff holiday display.

But rather than accept his offer, the village trustees turned away Mr. Ritell and his crèche, saying they did not want any religious symbols in Briarcliff Manor Law Park. The trustees reasoned that unlike the Nativity scene, the tree and the menorah were commercial symbols, not religious ones. That incensed Mr. Ritell, who filed a lawsuit against the village, contending that the menorah is as symbolic of the “indestructibility of Jewish people and their faith” as a Nativity scene is symbolic of the indestructibility of Catholic Christians.
Now, I'm not sure about this one. I definitely would not want to see a Nativity scene going up in every holiday display across America. But it's nice to see this guy recognize that a Menorah is actually very much a religious symbol as opposed to a secular or commercial one, as claimed here by the trustees (and this Chabad Rabbi).


Blogger DAG said...

Unfortontaly, the argument that a Menorha is secular fits into the Chabd mold of the neds justifies the means..it doesn't matter HOW you bring Judaism to people, as long as you do

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, at least the guy didn't set fire to himself to protest a school's decision to go back to calling it Christmas and Easter vacation instead of Winter and Spring Break.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

I would argue that a menora with electric lights in which all 8 lights (plus the shammas) is set up over the entire winter holiday season (not just Hanukka) is not a religious symbol, but is rather a secular/cultural reminder of an event in Jewish history.

Most Jews who light menorahs are secular in any event, and do so only out of sentimental attachment to their ethnic heritage.

This whole trend of these wingnuts forcing this issue is disturbing. All those towns were willing to go to the mat and get the Supreme Court to rule that a Christmas tree is a secular symbol. So why aren't any of them taking the effort to defend the menorah (or at least some sort of menorah) as one?

I;nm sure there's plenty of private property in Briarcliff manor in full view of the Public realm, private property where devout Christians can put up all the Nativity scenes they want, and other private property where every Chabadnik in the world can light the candles according to the strictest halacha. There's no need for either to do this on government-owned property.

The only reason these people are pushing this is becuase they want our country to be a Christian nation. That's the last thing that any Jew wants, and all of us need to continue to be vigilant in pushing back against these nits while at the same time, making sure that the general public understands that we have nothing against public expression of relgious beliefs. It's just that such expression should never have any government sponsorship or even the appearance of government sponsorship.

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so like nativity scenes you dont think menorahs should be permitted in public areas?

10:24 PM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

so like nativity scenes you dont think menorahs should be permitted in public areas?

Correct. A menorah capable of being used for the mitzvah of Hannukah lights has no business being any sort of government-sponsored display. If the authorities want to pander to their Jewish constituents, they should erect a symbolic passul menorah (i.e all 8 lights lit every night through the entire period between Thanksgiving and Jan. 1, all lights being electric, etc.), in fact I encourage communities with a significant Jewish population to do so. I also have no problem with politicians pandering to their Jewish constituents by attendance of a public halachic menorah lighting ceremony, as long as the ceremony is not sponsored by the government and the politician is an honored guest.

The same principles should apply to all religious observances -- whether Christian, or Muslim, or Hindu or Buddhist, or whatever.

8:00 AM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

Oh, and by "public area," you must mean "government-owned property." Of course, there's no problem with any religious display in a public space, as long as that space is privately owned. (I'm thinking of the front lawn of a church or synagogue, a private business, etc.)

I also would be OK if the government were to lease land to a private religious entity if no suitable privately-owned land was available, but the government would have to lease such land to all comers without discrimination., So if they lease land to the Bible thumpers for their nativity scene and to Chabad for their menorah, then they have to lease land to the Pagan Alliance so the pagans can erect their Great Phallus.

8:04 AM  

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