Golden, Colorado Throws out Menorahs

Old Town Fort Collins (Colorado) is bedecked in white lights, the holiday symbols are going up in storefronts and once again, City Councils are refusing to put up menorahs.

Just another Colorado holiday season? Say it isn’t so.

The city of Golden voted last week to support secular symbols in its official town celebration, extending them to include Santa Claus so an arch in downtown can once again host St. Nick and his reindeer.

The City Council preferred secular symbols like snowflakes and icicles, along with lighted trees, which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled are primarily secular.

There will not be any menorahs, Kwanzaa kenoras or other holiday traditions on display on city property, although the council agreed to study the issue further next year.

Rabbi Levi Brackman, director of Judaism in the Foothills, asked the city for permission to erect a menorah on city property at 10th Street and Washington Avenue.

He said now that the city has decided against it, he’ll look for a private property owner who might be interested. Otherwise, he said he’ll let it go.

“My feeling is, if I can find another way—not on public property and without upsetting anyone, without causing any conflict—to accomplish exactly the same goal, which is to reach out to Jewish people with Judaism, I’ll do it,” he said.

In Fort Collins, it sounded all too familiar.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, director of the Chabad Center of Northern Colorado, said he would reserve judgment on the city’s newly minted holiday display, called “Fort Collins Winter Traditions: Celebrations of Light,” until he sees it.

As of Monday, when installation was set to begin, Gorelik had not been approached about what the Hanukkah display would look like. He said he was out of the loop.

“I don’t know what’s going on, so I’d like to reserve judgment until I do know what’s going on,” he said.

Gorelik’s request three years ago to erect a menorah near a Christmas tree in Old Town sparked the controversy, which drew national attention to Fort Collins.

His 2005 request to have a menorah as part of the city’s holiday display raised concerns from some City Council members who feared adding a menorah to a Christmas tree display would open the floodgates to requests from many other faiths, everything from Nativity scenes to celebrations of Wiccanhood.

A temporary holiday display policy called for white or colored lights, traditional secular symbols and written secular messages. During the summer of 2007, a resident task force considered revisions to that policy.

Ultimately, council decided to allow Christmas trees and colored lights to remain in city displays, and added an educational all-faiths display at the museum.

That display will include a Nativity scene, a menorah and other depictions of cultural celebrations in Fort Collins. There won’t be a menorah in other city locations, but Gorelik plans to erect one at Coopersmith’s Pub, as he has done for the past several years.

As for Brackman, he said he took Fort Collins’ hard-earned lessons to heart—along with those of Seattle, which played host to a similar dispute over decorations at the airport.

“Ultimately, my view is, they don’t want it, too bad for them,” he said, adding that he does not hold anything against the Golden council. “We’ll try another way of doing it. Other than that, I’m looking upward.”

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