Secular symbols appropriate on public land

Ironically, Borden Applegate bases his opposition to the menorah lighting on town hall property (“Religion Does Not Have A Place at Town Hall,” Nov. 26) on the founding fathers and on Mark Twain, but it was George Washington himself who wrote, “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants – while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

While there is separation of church and state, and no established religion, that does not mean there shall be no religion expression. Jackson is not declaring a state religion. Rather it is recognizing there are members of the stock of Abraham who do observe different customs.

While the menorah has been used for religious observance, it is now recognized by most people as a secular symbol of the season, as is the Christmas tree, also a symbol of a religious holiday. Therefore, it belongs on government property in the same way as does the beautiful tree which will be lit on the lawn at town hall, along with Santa’s workshop activities taking place in town hall.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Applegate refers to Mark Twain, who asked why the Jews have been persecuted, even before Christianity. Twain stated that, “For centuries there has been no more quiet, undisturbing, and well-behaving citizen, as a class, than that same Jew.” Twain continues that the Jews are but 1 percent of the human race, “Yet (Jewish) contribution to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, etc., are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers … other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high, but it burned out. The Jew saw them all … and remains.”

Is this the reason why anti-Semitism prevails? If even Twain did not have a complete answer, I would not presume to venture one.

If Mr. Applegate fears Jackson tax dollars are being used to promote or even accommodate a particular religious belief, let me assure him that is not the case. The menorah was obtained through Chabad. The refreshments are provided by Bat Shalom Hadassah, the Jewish cultural clubs of the four local senior communities, and other philanthropic groups.

As a Jew, I look forward to the lighting of the Christmas tree and the related activities in town hall. Children (and adults) enjoy such warmth during the season to be jolly. I wish them Merry Christmas. I would hope my Christian neighbors would look forward to the lighting of the menorah in the same spirit. May your spirits be joyful in the coming weeks.

Ellen Keller
Bat Shalom Hadassah