A day before Hanukkah, the Naperville Park District agreed today to allow a local Jewish group to include a menorah alongside a Xmas display on the city’s Riverwalk after initially rejecting the request because it violated city ordinance.
Two weeks ago, the Chabad Jewish Center of Naperville asked to display the 6 feet, 4 inches tall menorah, but the park district turned down the request because it violated an ordinance preventing private entities from erecting or installing symbols or signs on the Riverwalk, said Park district attorney Derke Price.
So the group offered to comply with the ordinance by donating the menorah to the park district. On Thursday night, the park district accepted the menorah and Price said the city would erect it at the Riverwalk before sundown Friday, when Hanukkah begins.
The group already has permission to display a menorah inside Naperville Municipal Center.
Price said the park district’s initial decision to reject the group’s request had nothing to do with religion, but instead was meant to “protect the Riverwalk from becoming a public forum.”
“We have designated place in the park district for free speech events, but the Riverwalk is not one of them,” he said.
Rabbi Mendy Goldstein, director of the Chabad of Naperville, said he was “very happy that the park district agreed.”
He said it was important that the menorah be displayed because it represented a “universal message of good over evil and light over darkness.”
“It’s a message for everyone,” he said.