Over the last few years, our client Chabad of Bronxville sought approval from the Village of Bronxville to erect a menorah on one of the town squares near Bronxville's Christmas tree display. The Village holds a tree-lighting ceremony each year--complete with a visit from Old Saint Nick--and Chabad sought, similarly, to celebrate the holiday season with a menorah-lighting party during Hanukkah.
Each year the Village turned down the request, citing various reasons: staffing demands made it impossible. A "religious ceremony" of the sort proposed (i.e., lighting a menorah, listening to Adam Sandler's favorite holiday hits, and eating donuts) is "constitutionally prohibited." It would be more appropriate to have the Hanukkah celebration at Chabad's own facility rather than on town property.
This year, we worked with Chabad beginning in July, to educate the Village on the state of the law requiring tolerance in holiday celebrations, to assure that the Village of Bronxville would be able to celebrate the Festival of Lights--not just the yuletide fire. To wit, “it would be a form of discrimination against Jews to allow [a city] to celebrate Christmas as a cultural tradition while simultaneously disallowing the city’s acknowledgment of Chanukah as a contemporaneous cultural tradition.” County of Allegheny v. Am. Civ. Liberties Union Greater Pittsburgh Ch., 492 U.S. 573, 662 (1989). As a consequence of our advocacy, the holiday season is a little bit brighter this year. See our letter to the Village Administrator here.
To all, from us at Slarskey LLC, have a very happy and bright holiday season.