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Menorah Lighting Canceled By Legal Challenge

December 27, 1986

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ A legal challenge forced cancellation of a Hanukkah ceremony in a Santa Ana public park, but a judge allowed the lighting of a menorah outside Los Angeles City Hall.

The American Civil Liberties Union had challenged both ceremonies, contending that religious activities on taxpayer-owned property violate the U.S. Constitution.

In Santa Ana, about 30 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, the city ordered removal of a 10-foot plastic menorah from Sasscer Park, but a defiant rabbi and others lighted a small tin version of the symbolic candelabrum.

Rabbi David Eliezrie vowed to pursue unspecified legal action next week to get the original menorah returned.

The rabbi’s lawyer, Daniel Spitzer, said the lighting ceremony was no different from allowing a city Christmas tree to stand just 50 feet from where the menorah was placed.

″We are not challenging the city’s right to have a Christmas tree,″ Spitzer said. ″We live in a pluralistic society. We feel if there is a Christmas tree, there is no reason there shouldn’t be Hanukkah menorah.″

The ACLU’s Meir Westreich said a tree is decoration, while the menorah is a ″religious symbol.″ He said the ACLU complained to city officials because the menorah would have remained in the park after the lighting ceremony.

″Then it creates the appearance that this is associated with the owners of the property, who are the public,″ he said.

Meanwhile, outside Los Angeles City Hall, the first candle on a 15-foot menorah was lighted by City Councilman Gilbert Lindsay.

Superior Court Judge Robert O’Brien allowed the lighting outside City Hall on the grounds that the outer area was a public park where religion could be freely expressed.

O’Brien said the menorah ″will undoubtedly educate and enlighten citizens, and this serves a valuable public purpose.″

Meanwhile, a separate 19th-Century menorah rescued from the Great Synagogue of Katowitz, Poland, during the Holocaust went on display in the City Hall rotunda Friday.

About 50 elderly Russian Jews, most of them recent immigrants who experienced anti-Jewish persecution in their homeland, were on hand for a rotunda celebration before the outdoor lighting.

Superior Court Judge Irving Shimer had said the menorah could be displayed but that it could not be lighted because lighting would constitute a religious ceremony.

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