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December 14, 1990 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-12-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

DETROIT

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Chanukah Menorot
Are Taken To Court

ALAN HITSKY

Associate Editor

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FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14, 1990

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,

enorot are sprouting
all over the United
States during
Chanukah, but they are not
only appearing in Jewish
homes.
The Lubavitch movement
fought court battles in
several states this week in
an effort to place large
menorot on city property.
Lubavitch attorneys based
in Washington, D.C., filed
suit in federal courts to place
menorot in Virginia,
Florida, and Grand Rapids,
Mich.
A federal district judge in
Kalamazoo last week ruled
that the Chabad House of
Western Michigan could not
place a 20-foot-high menorah
on Grand Rapids' Calder
Plaza because of the plaza's
proximity to city and county
buildings. Chabad House
has been erecting the
Chanukah menorah at
Calder Plaza since 1984. No
other holiday displays are
erected there.
The judge later amended
his ruling to allow the meno-
rah to be placed on Monroe
Mall, a few blocks away.
Lubavitch had appealed to
the Sixth Circuit Court in
Cincinnati, asking that the
Calder site be permitted.
On Tuesday night, the first
night of Chanukah, the ap-
peals court removed the
district court order pending
a full hearing of the case. On
Wednesday, the Chabad
House quickly built a
smaller, plastic menorah for
Calder Plaza, having al-
ready placed its larger one at
Monroe Mall.
Rabbi Yosef Weingarten of
Chabad House of Western
Michigan said Americans
United for Separation of
Church and State and the
West Michigan Branch of
the American Civil Liberties
Union had been unhappy
with the Calder Plaza meno-
rah for several years. The
two groups filed the federal
law suit. Charles Bearden,
president of the ACLU bran-
ch, said the proximity of the
menorah on public property
to governmental buildings
"implies an endorsement of
the religious statement be-
ing made."
Mr. Bearden said the
ACLU "does not have a con-
cern about Monroe Mall.
There are many seasonal
displays there. It is on the

main street of town and it is
more appropriate there."
The Lubavitch organiza-
tion worldwide annually
erects large menorot outside
its Torah centers. In Mich-
igan, the group sent a letter
to cities offering to erect
menorot on public property.
Rabbi Yitzchok Kagan of the
Lubavitch Foundation of
Michigan said West Bloom-
field Township "politely
declined our offer." He said
some newspaper reports had
blown the issue out of pro-
portion because of the organ-
ization's discussions with
the township seeking ap-
proval for a synagogue-
college campus west of the
Jewish Community Campus
at Maple and Drake roads.
Rabbi Kagan said the
group has not placed a me-
norah at Oak Park City Hall
for several years.

Schools Meticulous
On 'Separation'
The Michigan Region of
the Anti-Defamation League
of B'nai B'rith has recorded
"far fewer complaints this
year" from Jewish parents
concerned about Christmas
programs in the public
schools.
Regional Director Richard
Lobenthal said the Birm-
ingham, Bloomfield Hills,
Ferndale, Rochester and
Walled Lake public schools
have adopted "really
thoughtful, evenhanded poli-
cies which seek to meticu-
lously follow the separation
of church and state."
He said some individual
teachers are resistant to the
policies. Adding confusion
are U.S. Supreme Court
decisions which allow
"seasonal, balanced obser-
vances and creches in front
of city halls — but not in the
schools."
Mr. Lobenthal said the
reality of the secular
Christmas vs. the religious
Christmas exists, "and the
schools are struggling to
make the distinction bet-
ween the two.
"For Jews, Christmas is
religious," he said. "For
Christians, Christmas is
secular and religious. There
is the example of Rudolph
the Red Nose Reindeer.
Rudolph is clearly less
disturbing than Mary or
Joseph, but still an accom-
modation as far as Jews are
concerned. After all, you
don't hear about Rudolph
except at Christmas time. ❑

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