Officials in the town of Durham, New Hampshire, are under fire for denying permission for a 10-foot-tall menorah to be displayed next to a tree decorated annually at a local park, WMUR reported.
Town Administrator Todd Selig said the local Chabad asked for the menorah to be put next to the tree, but town officials said no. “In part because we have a lot of vandalism on Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday night,” Selig said, “we were not comfortable with leaving the menorah here on display for the eight nights of Hanukkah.”
The situation is now prompting a larger conversation by the Durham Human Rights Commission.
“The Human Rights Commission’s perspective was, really, that it should really be all or none,” Selig said.
The tree in Durham is decorated each year to celebrate the winter season.
“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.”