New Hampshire officials are under fire for denying a 10-foot-tall menorah to be displayed next to a tree decorated annually at a local park.
Town Administrator Todd Selig said the local Chabad Jewish organization in Durham asked for the menorah to be put next to the tree, but town officials said no, citing vandalism concerns.
Selig said the area town officials were not "comfortable" leaving the menorah on display for the eight nights of Hanukkah.
The Durham Human Rights Commission is now deciding the next steps to take. Selig said the commission’s perspective was that it should really be all or none.
The tree in Durham is decorated each year to celebrate the winter season. And while the Human Right Commission argues the tradition is associated with the Christian faith and Christmas celebrations, a member of the town council told the Union Leader the tree lighting is not a religious symbol but a ritual to "bring light into darkness."
"The fact that the city allows for some to publicly express their culture is a good thing, and we hope that continues," Rabbi Berel Slavaticki of the University of New Hampshire and Seacoast Chabad Jewish Center said in a statement. "To stop people from openly expressing their particular faith seems un-American and would be a terrible loss for our town and our country."
Slavaticki said the center is committed to working with the town administration "to create a path forward that will allow everyone to enjoy their constitutionally guaranteed rights."
"Not allowing a menorah for fear of anti-Semitism only emboldens and enables those who hate," he said. "After all, that’s exactly what they’d want to see; our menorah not allowed."