Menorah Lighting Brings Up Holiday Tree Controversy

A menorah lighting at the State House Wednesday is in recognition of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah. This State House celebration is only controversial because of what happened there two weeks ago, involving the governor's now infamous “holiday tree”.

There's no doubt it was a religious ceremony that went on at the State House Wednesday. There was song, prayer, and the lighting of the menorah, and it was all just feet from what the governor has coined the “holiday tree”, not the Christmas tree.         

A menorah lighting ceremony at the State House, celebrating Chanukah and thanking God for providing for us. The religious event was just up the stairs from the holiday tree.

“I'm just carrying on past precedent, nothing that I did was different than what previous governors have done, despite the controversy,” said Governor Lincoln Chafee.

Even though Governor Chafee called a Christmas Tree a “holiday tree”, he wouldn't bite when reporters asked him if he would call a menorah, a menorah or something else, like a holiday candle stick.

“I've got enough controversy this holiday season,” said Governor Chafee. Those comments from the governor came earlier on Wednesday, he wasn't at the State House for the menorah lighting, telling us he had family commitments.     

Lieutenant Governor Roberts led the ceremony. We asked her why the State House is allowed to have a menorah and celebrate Judaism, but have a holiday tree. The lieutenant governor said, “We are surrounded in this building, if you look around, by representations of all Rhode Islanders of all cultural traditions, and that's why we're here tonight, celebrating the Jewish tradition.”

The lieutenant governor lit one of the candles on the menorah and made a short speech. “We do separate government and religion in how we govern, but here we're celebrating traditions,” said Roberts, “It's the evening, we're celebrating.”

They're celebrating with prayer and religious song on the first full day of Chanukah.

“Rhode Island is a place where religious freedom began in a new world, and that's something we should also be proud of,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Laufer.

There were about 50 people at the menorah lighting.