NJ Orthodox enclave removes menorah, keeps Christmas tree


(JTA) — Government officials in the heavily Orthodox town of Lakewood, New Jersey, removed a Hanukkah menorah from the town square while allowing a Christmas tree to remain.

The decision to remove the menorah, which the township has displayed alongside a Christmas tree for decades, came after a resident threatened to sue, The Associated Press reported, citing the Asbury Park Press.

The resident asked the township last week to put a Nativity scene in the holiday display and said she would sue if her request was not approved, according to Lakewood Mayor Albert Akerman.

“She wanted to make the distinction that the menorah is a religious symbol and the tree is not,” Akerman said, according to the AP.

Lakewood, which is approximately 70 miles from New York City, is home to one of the world’s largest yeshivas, Beth Medrash Govoha. Orthodox Jews, most of them haredi, make up more than half the township’s population.

Upon reviewing the matter, the township’s attorney recommended removing the menorah displayed in the square, as well as another at the town hall.

“Why cause litigation when it’s costly and time-consuming for everybody?” Steven Secare, the attorney, said Wednesday, according to the AP. “The easiest thing to do was take it down for a year.”

The Nativity scene request was denied.

Harold Herskowitz, a Jewish resident, told the AP that it makes no sense for a menorah to be a problem in Lakewood, “of all places.”

“The way it was set up in town square was fine,” Herskowitz said. “The fact that we’re this Jewish town and have this massive Christmas tree and there’s this little teeny menorah is a little weird, but it’s fine. I was never going to say a word.

“There should be a 30-foot menorah on town square,” he added. “It’s ridiculous.”

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