Wilmington denies request to keep menorah on display

By Max Winitz - bio | email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - There's some controversy brewing in Wilmington, and it has to do with the holidays.

In November, City Council voted 6-1 to deny a request to place temporary objects at Riverfront Park, including a menorah.

"If we did that, any religious group would be allowed to have symbols and things out there," said Councilman Earl Sheridan. "That was a direction we did not want to go in."

Councilman Charlie Rivenbark, who is not Jewish, saw things differently. He was approached by Rabbi Moshe Lieblich several months ago asking for help to place a menorah Downtown.

"I just don't get it," Rivenbark said. "For a city that practices diversity, like we often do, I just think we missed the boat on that."

Lieblich, who is the Rabbi at Chabad of Wilmington, was able to get an event permit and held a public lighting last Saturday night. The menorah was taken home after only a couple of hours.

"I think the proper thing to do is have different groups have different displays for their celebrations," Lieblich said. "I think it should be equal for everybody."

While a menorah was not permitted to stay up all eight nights of Hannukah, a large Christmas tree remains on display at Riverfront Park. Sheridan says the tree is "non secular."

"A Christmas tree is like Frosty or Rudolph," Sheridan said. "It is not a religious symbol."

Rivenbark said he completely disagrees with that. He said, "You can call it a holiday tree, or a tree with lights on it, but that is a Christmas tree, and Christmas has the name, "Christ" in it. It was designed to celebrate a Christian holiday."

Lieblich says he will ask for Council's permission again next Hannukah.

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