Hanukkah menorah lightings canceled as towns remove Jewish symbols over Hamas war
Meanwhile, an east London council reversed its decision after backlash to not display a menorah to avoid "further inflaming tensions" related to the war in Israel.
Towns across the world are canceling their menorah lighting ceremonies and removing Hanukkah decorations from their holiday displays out of concerns that the local governments may appear to be siding with Israel in its ongoing war against Hamas.
Hanukkah is the eight-day "festival of lights" celebrating a miracle that religious Jews believe occurred in the second century BC when they overthrew the Greek rulers over Israel and reclaimed their temple in Jerusalem. It is celebrated by lighting a menorah for eight nights and gradually increasing the number of candles.
However, towns have been canceling their annual public menorah lighting ceremonies and removing Jewish objects out of concerns that it may appear they are siding with Israel as it fights Hamas following the Oct. 7 attacks in which about 1,200 people were killed and 240 others were kidnapped. The subsequent war has resulted in the deaths of more than 15,000 people in the Gaza Strip, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, which does not distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties.
For example, the city of Moncton, Canada, decided for the first time in 20 years to not have a menorah displayed outside of its city hall. Councilmember Daniel Bourgeois told The Canadian Jewish News that counselors were told to either ban all religious symbols on public property or only allow a select few. The city decided to axe the menorah and Nativity display, but keep an official Christmas tree and sponsor the Royale Greater Moncton Santa Claus parade.
"It is unfair because, while banning the Jewish Menorah, the Christmas tree and the angels that are on City Hall ground will remain," Moncton Jewish Community President Francis Weil said Friday on Facebook. "The Jewish Community is happy that the tree and the angels remain, but so should the Menorah. It is unfair because the Chanukah Menorah is, for Jews, a symbol of being accepted."
The Second Sundays Art and Music Festival in Williamsburg, Virginia, hosted by a nonprofit known as "LoveLight Placemaking" canceled its menorah lighting scheduled for this Sunday.
"To be clear, the menorah lighting, which was to be led by a local community rabbi, had nothing to do with Israel or the conflict," the United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula said Sunday about the Williamsburg festival. "Yet, appallingly, the event organizer claimed that a Chanukah celebration would send a message that the festival was 'supporting the killing/bombing of thousands of men, women, and children,' -- and even went a step further, by offering to reinstate the event if it was done under a banner calling for a ceasefire."
Lovelight Placemaking said Monday a ceremony was never planned and "we standby our mission to create a safe place for all to gather and enjoy art and music and chose not to showcase religious ceremonies of any faith as part of our programming.
Meanwhile, the Havering Council in east London reversed its decision after backlash to not display a menorah to avoid "further inflaming tensions" related to the war in Israel, the BBC reported.
Hanukkah is will start this Thursday evening.