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West side menorah goes up while tempers cool down

Posted: December 11, 2008 10:11 p.m.
Updated: December 12, 2008 4:59 a.m.

Stevenson Ranch resident Harris Birken volunteered to erect the neighborhood's menorah display Thursday at the corner of Stevenson Ranch Parkway and Holmes Place.

Harris Birken wanted to help his community heal and move on.

"I just wanted to get it done and put it behind us," Birken said as he assembled a menorah on the corner of Stevenson Ranch Parkway and Holmes Place on Thursday. Birken hoped erecting the menorah would quell a controversy that flared up Wednesday.

Stevenson Ranch Homeowners Association president Greg Waugh declined to place a menorah on the same strip of land where a holiday tree was lit Dec. 7. Waugh asked for volunteers from the community to place the menorah and no one stepped forward, he said.

He didn't want to place the menorah there himself because he is not Jewish and did not want the association endorsing one religion, Waugh said.

The decision enraged some association members and prompted letters from Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami protesting the association's decision.

Birken contacted Waugh Wednesday morning and volunteered to put up the menorah.

Birken, Blazer and Dave Bossert do not accuse Waugh of being anti-Semitic.

"I don't think (Waugh's) anti-Semetic," Birken said. "I don't think he hates Jews. He made a poor

Bossert, who publishes a Web site featuring association news and opinions, was dealing with the fallout of the story Wednesday.

"I have no idea why he wouldn't put (the menorah) up," Bossert said. "He would never give me a straight answer why."

Bossert said he was concerned about the menorah issue because the same thing happened at the association about 10 years ago.

"I am in an interfaith marriage," Bossert said Thursday. "My wife and children are Jewish, but I am not Jewish. I never made any threat to (Waugh) except to tell him there would be an outcry from the community."

Birken was on the corner Thursday looking for the perfect patch to place the menorah.

"How about right next to the nativity?" he asked.

Waugh is glad the controversy is behind him.

"I hope this helps ease the tension. I look forward to next year and having a wonderful event," Waugh said.


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