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Medford mayor apologizes for anti-Semitic Chanukah display at City Hall

Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn has posted an apology for a City Hall Chanukah display that included an explanation that discussed the holiday in Christian terms and referred to "the sins of Israel," WBZ reports.

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Comments

It's hard to know what to think. I honestly don't think it was malicious, just incompetent.

It's insulting not just for the graphic but because in a town that has a large Jewish population they couldn't be bothered to find someone to prepare a suitable description of the holiday.

It's also reflective of the "Old Medford" attitude that's indicative of many town employees and departments: Don't bother us, we know what we're doing, even when we don't.

What will probably be bigger news is that the DPW director (long time employee) was fired right before Thanksgiving for reasons undisclosed and this seems to be the start of a fairly big scandal.

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Voting closed 46

The display was much worse than the excerpt led me to believe:

“It had very antisemitic tropes in the sense of it was trying to make Hanukkah into a Christian holiday. It had references to the cross, to Jesus and sins of Israel,” said former Temple Shalom President David Sayres.

First of all the combination of things makes me think malice, even if it didn’t come directly from the mayor (and even if it came from a Jews-for-Jesus type who doesn’t think of themselves as a racist). Regardless, when you’re the mayor, “I am not a malicious anti-Semite, my administration simply behaved in a ghoulishly anti-Semitic way due to my indifference and incompetence” isn’t a good enough distinction to keep your job.

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Leave it to Christians to make another religion’s holiday about them. As if 2 months of awful Christmas music every year wasn’t bad enough.

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Isn't whining for 12 months about everyone not being on a bike bad enough?

Too much Christmas music? I feel bad you are missing out on your love of Matchbox 20 and Kelly Clarkson when Magic 106.7 switched over. Be brave. 3 weeks left and you can go back to your Celine Dion and Shawn Mendes 24/7.

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well, my kids were asking me why they are playing Chrismas music and not Hanukkah music on Hanukkah and i didnt really have anything to say

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The Medford mayor should also apologize for leaving out the Festivus pole for the rest of us.

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I went to the "Holiday Extravaganza" (as they called it) last week although I didn't notice the Chanukah display.

But, as is typical for Medford events, it was lacking. There was beer from Medford Brewing (nice) but for food it was a fairground fried dough truck. They couldn't have gotten any local restaurants to set up a booth or brought in a bunch of local food trucks?

I give credit to Somerville and Cambridge that they do a good job with local events like this. They'll close major roads -- traffic be damned, community events are more important. The tend to last all day and have dozens of booths from local vendors and businesses. Medford's event was in the City Hall parking lot in the shadow of I-93 during rush hour and it lasted all of 2 hours.

Medford feels like the city perpetually stuck in 1989. The failed Menorah display fit right in.

(Yes, this post is pointless kvetching. Bloomberg aside, it's not a bad town.)

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but when they do, they are at the Condon Shell next to the Mystic River, rather than in front of City Hall.

This, however, was inexcusable and should result in at least one person being fired from the Mayor's office.

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If you read the “apology” and look at the image in question you need to recognize the anti-Semitism. Bigots believe they are in the right and therefore don’t need to question their actions or messages. The people/person who displayed the image has deep enough beliefs of anti-Semitism that they thought nothing was wrong with their action. Clearly the mayor agreed as demonstrated by the non-apology. Hanukkah gets ignored and marginalized all the time, our family for one is used to it, but to acknowledge it offensively is going too far.

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The person who coordinated this treated it like a class project instead of a community engagement activity. If you were part of the various local private discussion groups on various social media, you would know more about the backstory. The Jewish person that the city employee consulted about putting it together has come forth and explained how she sent the woman to specific resources, and then that led somehow led to other internet content that contained the bullshit that got displayed.

Her road to hell was paved with good intentions.

What pisses me off most is that we somehow got a PR person in charge of community relations who seems to have never heard of "Nothing about us without us". She apparently lacks the internet skills to filter out internet anti-Semitic crazy just because it comes with a tidy graphic. I'm not a professional employed by the city, but even I know that my first call on this would have been to Rev. Wendy or Rev. Hank to arrange a introduction to the interfaith council with a request for different faith groups (including the wide range of Christian groups in the city) to put together a richer display of Winter Holiday content for the event. There is more to "winter holidays" than Santa-flavored Christmas and Channukah.

I will leave it to my friends and neighbors (including Sarah and Dave) who have been wronged to decide what is to be done about this. I think it goes beyond just casual accidental anti-semitism but also extends to a unprofessional attitude and fundamental failure of training in how to "relate" to a diverse community. City employees can clearly use some community engagement training through the Mass Municipal Association or other local government support organizations.

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would be to Temple Shalom. If that somehow didn't work out, my second call would be to Tufts University Hillel.

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Although I have met very few in Medford who attend there, and I have been told many reasons why that I won't go into.

But the idea was originally "winter holiday celebrations", and that shouldn't be just Jewish and a single type of Christianity. The idea that "we need something Jewish here to be inclusive" just underscores the entire problem with how the city worker went about "tacking on" some diversity.

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Irrespective of who is asked initially, it should be common sense to ask someone to review what is prepared to check it's accurate and fitting. That should be true of any public display or document.

The "Winter Holiday Celebration" could have happened at the Condon Shell and featured vendors and booths from across town, including representation from any religious group that wanted to attend.

Throw in some warm Glühwein, maybe get a few local musicians to play, and you'd have a real Holiday Extravaganza

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your first call for anything Jewish would be to two reverends? Interesting

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The apology made on Twitter isn't accessible to those with visual disabilities. It's a picture of the apology without any alt-text. Medford needs to learn about ADA and accessible online communication.

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… in all this?

Or the Satanic Temple, for that matter?

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I only have one question.

What in the actual motherfucking fuck is wrong with them?

That's all I want to know.

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… sputters on. The Puritans had Christmas right, if nothing else.

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… sputters on. The Puritans had Christmas right, if nothing else.

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it's Medford.

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This is... not an apology. A real apology would include an explanation of how this happened, how it won't happen again, what will be done to make up for it, and possibly a resignation from the either anti-semitic or utterly incompetent Director of Community Relations.

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