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October 9, 2015 | 26th Tishrei 5776
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Chanukah--Menorah Public Display


  1. Nov 2006 Digest 181
    [No, we do not have a public display.] We kind of feel like we don't want Chanukah (or Hanukkah for that matter) to be all commercialized and meaningless like poor ol' Xmas has become for many Christians. Why, non-Christians and even atheists celebrate the birth of Jesus, if you can believe that!! :) The churches are rather sad about this, and I think we should learn from their experience.
    90 member units

  2. Nov 2006 Digest 181

    As a purist on separation of church and state, I have long felt that municipal holiday symbolism is inappropriate, and while I don't think we should fight Christmas displays, trying to counter them with Chanukah displays on public property falls into the category of two wrongs trying to make a right.

    Having said that, I applaud the Montreal ceremony because of the coming together of a Reform and an Orthodox congregation. This kind of ecumenism is all too rare these days, and to the extent that Orthodox and Reform Jews (and also Conservative of course) sit down at the same table, it's usually because they have been convened by the Federation.


  3. Nov 2006 Digest 181

    Several years ago a few members of our congregation came up with the idea of purchasing a menorah to place on the grounds of the Capitol building...Through private donations the menorah was purchased and permission given by the governor…to do a public menorah-lighting each night of Chanukah. Members of the tiny, tiny congregation…contributed to the purchase as well. [Another nearby] congregation…declined. One of our members goes [to the Capitol building] every year to light the menorah on the first night and finds someone to light it on the other seven nights. Jews are rare in [the area,] so it is often a non-Jew who is designated.

    So in [our area] there is a public menorah lighting at the State Capitol building.

    My personal preference is to not do this type of thing, but obviously many others are in favor.

    30 families

  4. Dec 2006 Digest 183
    …I find it a sad irony that after so many in the Jewish community have fought for so many years in the cause of Church-State Separation, especially during the Winter Holidays, that it is a Jewish group which is guilty of one of the most profound violations of that principle. After all, when the Christians place Christmas trees and nativity scenes on public property, those items are but symbolic of Christmas. On the other hand, a Hanukkah menorah is not just mere symbolism. It is a ritual object, the lighting of which is an integral part of the religious observance of Hanukkah. That constitutes a significant difference, and a serious violation of Separation of Church and State…

  5. Dec 2006 Digest 183

    …I understand why [the Chabad] do it. The prevailing climate, legally speaking, is that the town commons are open to religious displays as long as they are open to everyone. The towns make this lip service, and so Chabad calls them on it. They actually have to fight in some towns because the town government doesn't see things like Christmas trees, Santa Clauses, and even creches as religious symbols.

    …my area's Chabad lawyer…was "lamenting" that there was no local town putting up a fight this year; that they were all permitting the chanukiot without issue (he also agrees that they shouldn't be there; but hasn't found a way to win that case yet). I told him that now it's time for phase 2: To get all the religious stuff off of town land, and we're investigating.


  6. Dec 2006 Digest 183

    …what troubles me is that when we put up a chanukiot in public spaces (not synagogues or other Jewish organizations), we send the message that we are competing with Christmas or that Chanukah is the "Jewish Christmas." Are we sending the wrong message about our holiday?

    Chanukah is really not a religious holiday, at least not like Sukkot, Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur; it is not Torah mandated. And, its source comes from Maccabees which is not even in the Hebrew Bible, although [it is in] some Christian Bibles. Yes, we have a religious symbol and some liturgical rubrics for blessings and services for the Shabbat during Chanukah--but is it religious? I put it in the same category as Purim, and both of these holidays met with resistance by the Rabbis to incorporate them in the calendar. For both political and religious reasons.

    We have all seen in recent years the rise of Chanukah decorations--lights, twinkling stars, door hangings, etc. What are we doing to Chanukah? How should we celebrate it? What does it mean to us today? Is it a religious holiday to us? I am afraid that we have turned it into a Jewish Christmas.


  7. Dec 2006 Digest 184

    I'm intrigued by the fretting and worrying about Chanukah lights in public. I guess that I've been away from the U.S. for a while. If the mitzvah is "pirsuma nisa"--advertising the miracle, to make a modern translation, then flashing lights, light-up Magen David, and big, public chanukiot are right up there.

    …Gaudy displays can have great value for personal and religious identification in our community, especially in the case of American Judaism, especially in communities where Christmas light displays are everywhere. And then there's the educational side of things--think about what happened in Billings a couple of years back. How many people in that part of America learned that not everyone is the same that winter? It's so easy to be lulled by the idea that "everyone" celebrates Christmas.

    Obviously, I am not touching the issue of displaying chanukiot on public property and all the first amendment issues surrounding them. That's a different issue.


  8. Dec 2006 Digest 184
    …Religious displays do not belong on *public* land. We should be happy to advertise the miracle on the front yard of our synagogues, and on/in our homes. The lights and decorations do indeed serve the same purpose as those for Christmas: promotion of a religious purpose and agenda.

  9. Dec 2006 Digest 186
    In [our area] we put a menorah on the corner of a very trafficked intersection and light a candle every night. This has drawn a whole bunch of discussion and controversy at meetings from the executive committee on down. Our rabbi is very much against the practice and rallies against it regularly. The argument that is stated on the opposing side comes from residents who remember our little community being overtly anti-Semitic…and want to make sure our community sees our presence. We all agree that we would love to have a chanukiyah on our premises but we have a "flag lot" with our driveway being an easement and our lot being well off the road where no one would see the lights. In our case it might be an instance of being on public land or not really visible at all. None the less there is strong sentiment on both sides of the issue.

  10. Dec 2006 Digest 186
    [Alternatives to public property are:]…a congregant with a more visible front yard…Or perhaps a local church that would be interesting in sponsoring the display as a show of solidarity.


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