Miami Shores mayor’s proposal to add menorah to holiday display sparks council debate

MIAMI SHORES, FLA. (WSVN) - Menorahs are a familiar sight across South Florida during the holiday season, but a proposal to add one to Miami Shores’ Village Hall during this period led to a major pushback from the village attorney and some members of the council.

Miami Shores Mayor Crystal Wagar’s plan sparked a serious debate in Tuesday’s commission meeting that lasted nearly a half hour.

Village Attorney Richard Sarafan argued against the proposal.

“It is simply not the role of the government to support or appear to support any particular religion,” he said.

At issue is the legality of placing a menorah at Village Hall.

“The goal here is just to make everyone feel included, make sure that they know that we recognize that you are here and that you are respected and appreciated,” said Wagar.

While inclusivity may have been the mayor’s goal, Sarafan said it’s not that simple, and other members of the council echoed those concerns.

“To have symbols of the Jewish faith, the menorah in particular, to have it be part of the property decor, in my legal opinion, is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution,” said Sarafan.

“I would be offended by crosses and Nativity scenes in front of the Village Hall, I’m just going to say it. I would be,” said Village Councilman Sean Brady. “That’s the only reason why I, with the information we have in front of us today, would not want to do this.”

Meanwhile, Wagar said she’s not giving up and will bring the issue up again after a new village council is elected.

“It just seems like a no-brainer issue,” she said.

Village Councilman Stephen Loffredo made a case in support of the mayor’s proposal.

“The menorah is a symbol of the Jewish people. While it is technically a religious symbol, it is also a symbol of a people,” he said. “The Jews are simply more than a religion; they’re an ethnicity, they’re a culture, they’re a body, and they’re deserving of inclusivity and respect, in my opinion.”

The election to determine a new Miami Shores Village Council will take place on Tuesday.

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