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"Sea-Tac Removes Christmas Trees Under Threat of Lawsuit"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wash. Airport Removes Christmas Trees
The Associated Press

All nine Christmas trees have been removed from the Seattle-Tacoma
International Airport instead of adding a giant Jewish menorah to the
holiday display as a rabbi had requested.

Maintenance workers boxed up the trees during the graveyard shift early
Saturday, when airport bosses believed few people would notice.

"We decided to take the trees down because we didn't want to be exclusive,"
said airport spokeswoman Terri-Ann Betancourt. "We're trying to be
thoughtful and respectful, and will review policies after the first of the

Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky, who made his request weeks ago, said he was
appalled by the decision. He had hired a lawyer and threatened to sue if the
Port of Seattle didn't add the menorah next to the trees, which had been
festooned with red ribbons and bows.

"Everyone should have their spirit of the holiday. For many people the trees
are the spirit of the holidays, and adding a menorah adds light to the
season," said Bogomilsky, who works in Seattle at the regional headquarters
for Chabad Lubavitch, a Jewish education foundation.

After consulting with lawyers, port staff believed that adding the menorah
would have required adding symbols for other religions and cultures in the
Northwest. The holidays are the busiest season at the airport, Betancourt
said, and staff didn't have time to play cultural anthropologists.

Hanukkah begins this Friday at sundown.

"They've darkened the hall instead of turning the lights up," said
Bogomilsky's lawyer, Harvey Grad. "There is a concern here that the Jewish
community will be portrayed as the Grinch."

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