In attempting to rationalize the Beverly Hills City Council's decision to permit the display of a Hanukkah menorah on public property while simultaneously denying a similar request to erect a cross, Mayor Max Salter is reported to have said: "All five of the council members are Jewish. The last thing we would want to do is uphold one religion against another." Yet this is the inescapable impact of the council's actions.
Since 1986, when Beverly Hills first allowed the fundamentalist Orthodox Jews of the Chabad movement to construct their 28-foot-high menorah on public land diagonally adjacent to the City Hall, the American Jewish Congress has protested this display.
Not only are such displays constitutionally suspect, they are wrong as a matter of public policy and are contrary to the interests and desires of the City Council's decision. While asserting that the Hanukkah menorah is "a secular symbol," Chabad's rabbis nevertheless announced their intent to conduct a public recitation of blessings over the menorah's candles.
In truth, as the U.S. Supreme Court declared this July: "The menorah, one must recognize, is a religious symbol; it serves to commemorate the miracle of the oil as described in the Talmud.