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Jewish Group Answers Letter on Holiday Symbols

January 28, 1993

In an inexplicably vitriolic letter (Times, Jan. 3), David Tamir accuses the American Jewish Congress of undertaking a campaign against the display of only Jewish religious symbols on public property. Mr. Tamir is flatly wrong.

The American Jewish Congress, like the rest of America's mainstream Jewish community, has long opposed the display of all religious symbols on public property. Acting on this belief, the American Jewish Congress argued against the display of Nativity scenes in the only two U.S. Supreme Court cases that have addressed this issue. In Chicago, our group was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that resulted in the removal of a Nativity scene from City Hall.

The American Jewish Congress has also appeared to oppose non-Jewish religious symbols in major federal court cases across the country. We successfully fought the display of a lighted Latin cross during the Christmas season in St. Charles, Ill. We also opposed the display of a Nativity scene in Scarsdale, N.Y., and Kentucky's use of a structure resembling a biblical-age stable on the grounds of its state Capitol.

In California, our organization successfully opposed the County of San Bernardino's ownership and maintenance of a public park featuring a permanent display of 36 religious statues and tableaux depicting various scenes from the New Testament. In addition, our Northern California affiliate is now involved in a lawsuit challenging the display of a 10-story Latin cross built on a prominent public mountaintop in west San Francisco.

In light of this history--and given the citywide strife engendered last Christmas when the Ku Klux Klan erected a cross in Cincinnati to retaliate against a menorah display in the same public square--it would be the height of hypocrisy for the American Jewish Congress not to oppose unconstitutional displays of Jewish religious symbols on public property.

STEVEN J. KAPLAN

Los Angeles

Kaplan is president of the American Jewish Congress' Pacific Southwest Region.

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