Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
770 Eastern Parkway
New York, New York

Dear Rabbi Schneerson:

Rabbi Brod has told us that he had written to you about the placement of a menorah on town property. Because this issue is so important to our community, we wanted to contact you, as well.

The Teaneck Jewish Community Council has been in existence for over 25 years.

When we began, Christian observances by the Township and in the public school system were common occurrences and offensive to Jewish children and their parents. Jewish children were excluded from most school wide activities because these activities (orchestra rehearsal e.g.) were held on Shabbat.

Over the ensuing years, through our efforts, all Christian observances are out of the public schools. Jewish children now participate fully in whatever activities they choose. Most Christological symbols such as nativity scenes, Christmas signs along the highway through our town, etc., have been removed from town property.

What we are presently left with is a living evergreen decorated with lights; no Christian symbols, no Crèche; and some candles in some of the windows of the municipal building. Along the commercial streets there are white plastic bells.

We are well aware of the continuing nature of the work we do; and after having made all this progress, we cannot change direction. As the umbrella organization representing all the Jewish organizations and synagogues in the community, we shall continue to work quietly, but effectively to ensure that Teaneck remains a comfortable place in which Jews can live.

In addition, the Jewish Community Council has contributed to the fullness of Jewish life in Teaneck. For instance, we were successful in cooling down community tempers against the location of a mikvah. Feelings were beginning to change from those in opposition to a particular location for it, to opposition to the mikvah itself. We secured an appropriate site so that now Jews are able to perform this mitzvah in Teaneck. Jews are also welcomed into all phases of local government, planning and advising.

The Jewish Community Council also, as you may know, sponsors a town wide Purim Carnival for synagogue and non-synagogue affiliated Jewish children.

The placing of a menorah on township property may, at first, seem to be a positive act. The Jewish people of Teaneck would have a symbol of their holiday recognized by the township.

However, because of the above history of our work in removing all the Christian symbols in the township, it would be ludicrous and ridiculous for the Jewish community to accept the presence of a Jewish religious object on township property.

Furthermore, the menorah would be followed by a Crèche and subsequently, request after request will follow from the great and varied number of different religious groups and sects. We do not want to cause, foster or participate in religious competition among the various Muslim, Bahai, Evangelical, Protestant and Catholic denominations and secular groups residing here. We do not want to jeopardize the peaceful co-existence of the Jewish community with its non-Jewish neighbors.

The menorah could easily be displayed on private property, where we are assured it would be welcome. It could be displayed with equal visibility, so that any Jewish child passing by can view the menorah with pride.

When the Town Council voted against the menorah on town property, its decision was in accordance with what has been the position of the Jewish Community Council since its inception. It would, therefore, have been appropriate for the Jewish Community Council to write and commend their action, and as a matter of fact, we were urged to do so, by many prominent Jewish leaders.

However, as we explained to Rabbi Brod in our meetings with him, we refrained from doing so, and up to now, have not done so, because we did not want to isolate any Jewish organization in our community and thereby cause a rift.

If the menorah placement continues to be an issue, we fear that the present status of a "peaceful house" will be disrupted.

We do not want this to happen! How can this, in any way, benefit Jewish youngsters or, indeed, Jews of any age, in Teaneck?

Rabbi, as explained above, we regard this matter with great concern. We also know that this holiday season is the worst time in which to discuss such an issue in the community.

Thank you for anything you may do to help us maintain the Sholom Bayis in our community.

Respectfully yours,

Jewish Community Council of Teaneck

Linda Gissen, President