Menorahs in Public Places
3 Teves, 5742 
The Jewish community in the U.S.A. is as old as the U.S.A. itself. We know the problems it faced,
and the actual discriminations it suffered, until it has won its place in this country. Yet, even in this day
and age prejudice and anti-Semitism exist, not only latently, but also overtly. Under these
circumstances we must not relax our alertness to any sign of erosion of our hard-won positions.
One of these positions is the annual lighting of a Chanukah Menorah in public places. As mentioned
in my previous letter, such Chanukah Menorahs have been kindled in the Nation's capi-tal (in
Lafayette Park, facing the White House), in Manhattan, Albany, Philadelphia, Chicago, and in many
other cities of the Union. There has been no opposition to their being placed on public property from
non-Jewish quarters. Regrettably, there have been some Jews who did raise objections in several
places out of fear that kindling a Menorah on public property, would call attention to the fact that
there are Jews living in that city; Jews who would apparently be willing to forgo the claim that the
public place belongs also to them, as part of the public.
I also pointed out that in Washington. D.C. the President personally participated in the cere-mony,
that in New York City the Attorney General of the State of New York personally participated in the
ceremony, and elsewhere public officials and dignitaries were on hand at this public event. There is
no need for any stronger evidence that the Chanukah Menorah-with its universal message, which is
especially akin to the spirit of liberty and independence of this nation - has won a place not only in
Jewish life, but also in the life of the American people.
In light of the above, when a Jewish community in the U.S.A. publicly raises objections to placing a
Chanukah Menorah in a public place-on whatever grounds, and however well intentioned-it is thereby
jeopardizing the Jewish position in general. It is also undermining its own position in the long run, as
mentioned above. With all due respect to the claim that hitherto this policy has resulted in a "steady
reduction of all Christological elements in public life," I doubt whether these have been eliminated
completely. But granted, for the sake of argument, that this is the case, it would be most exceptional
and unnatural in American life, since by and large the American people is Christian.
Some day, someone will raise the question, "Why should Teaneck be different from any other
American town, and be hindered by Jews-a minority-from expressing itself in terms of religious
symbols?" The answer that Jews, on their part, likewise refrained from placing a Chanukah Menorah
in a public place-will hardly satisfy the majority of the Teaneck population.
Now, to come to the essential point; Why is it so important for Jews to have a Chanukah Menorah
displayed publicly? The answer is that experience has shown that the Chanukah Menorah displayed
publicly during the eight days of Chanukah, has been an inspiration to many, many Jews and evoked
in them a spirit of identity with their Jewish people and the Jewish way of life. To many others, it has
brought a sense of pride in their Yiddishkeit and the realization that there is no reason really in this
free country to hide one's Jewishness, as if it were contrary or inimical to American life and culture.
On the contrary, it is fully in keeping with the American national slogan "e pluribus unum" and the fact
that American culture has been enriched by the thriving ethnic cultures which contributed very much,
each in its own way, to American life both materially and spiritually.
Certainly, Jews are not in the proselytizing business. The Chanukah Menorah is not inten-ded to, and
can in no way, bring us converts to Judaism. But it can, and does, bring many Jews back to their
Jewish roots. I personally know of scores of such Jewish returnees, and I have good reason to
believe that in recent years, hundreds, even thousands, of Jews experience a kindling of their inner
Jewish spark by the public kindling of the Chanukah Menorah in their particular city and in the
Nation's capital, etc., as publicized by the media.
In summary, Jews, either individually or communally, should not create the impression that they are
ashamed to show their Jewish-ness, or that they wish to gain their neighbors' respect by covering up
their Jewishness. Nor will this attitude insure their rights to which they are entitled, including the
privilege of publicly lighting a Chanukah Menorah, a practice which has been sanctioned by
precedent and custom, as to become a tradition.
I also must point out that I do not think that a Jewish community can disregard its responsibility to
other Jewish communities in regard to an issue of this kind, which cannot remain localized, and must
have its impact on other Jewish communities and community relations.