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A Jewish Scroll Opens the Door to Debate

Miami Herald
Gov. Charlie Crist and Rabbi Schneur Oirechman, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Panhandle, affix a Mezuzah scroll on the door leading into the governor’s office on Monday.

TALLAHASSEE, FL — Saying it is ”fundamental” to freedom to be able to display ”religious symbols,” Gov. Charlie Crist has quietly placed a boxed Jewish scroll on the door leading into his formal Capitol office.

Crist put up the mezuzah — a portion of sacred Jewish parchment contained inside a case — with the help of Rabbi Schneur Oirechman, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Panhandle. The mezuzah was a gift from House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, a Delray Beach Republican, who gave it to Crist, who is not Jewish, while he was on a trade mission to Israel last May.

Crist’s action has drawn the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union, which said Monday it is wrong for the governor to put up any religious symbol in such a public place.

”A religious symbol is a religious symbol, whether it’s Christian, Jewish or Muslim,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida chapter of the ACLU. “People have the right to put religious symbols on their own property; government’s job is to stay neutral. I think what the governor has done is mistakenly given the imprimatur of state government endorsement to a Jewish religious symbol.”

Crist said in response that he is “celebrating the diversity that is Florida: many religions, many people, many opportunities.”

There have been several high-pitched battles over the placement of religious symbols or documents in government buildings in recent years, including a battle over whether the Ten Commandments could be placed inside state buildings in Alabama, Kentucky and Texas. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that framed copies of the Ten Commandments could not be placed on a courthouse wall in Kentucky but approved a Texas monument because it was placed next to other historical markers.

When Crist put up the mezuzah last week, he issued a statement to Jewish media outlets.

”Being able to display religious symbols is just as fundamental as being able to practice your religious beliefs,” the statement said. “I am honored to display a mezuzah on my door. The freedoms and ideals that make our country great are the same ideals that people all over world seek every day.”

Many other top state officials, including House Speaker Marco Rubio, have some religious symbols in their offices. Rubio has a small wooden cross that Crist bought for him while he was in Israel. Some state senators have placed copies of the Ten Commandments in their offices.

”It’s the backbone for the laws in our country,” said State Sen. Steven Wise, a Jacksonville Republican and a Baptist, who added he has no problem with Crist putting up the mezuzah. “It’s a free country. You can do what you want.”

Added Sen. Ronda Storms, a Brandon Republican: “The Constitution gives us the freedom of religion, not the freedom from religion.”

But the ACLU’s Simon drew a distinction between someone putting up something inside their legislative office and on the door frame leading into the governor’s office.

”This is a not like a personal expression of somebody having a religious statue on their desk,” Simon said. “I think he made a mistake.”

8 Comments (Open | Close)

8 Comments To "A Jewish Scroll Opens the Door to Debate"

#1 Comment By MVH On October 16, 2007 @ 7:45 pm

This is a huge kiddush Hashem. Yasher koach Rabbi Oirechman, and a huge yasher koach to Governor Crist.

And to anyone who thinks there’s a problem with a goy having a mezuzah on his door, your problem is with Rebbi, who sent a mezuzah to his friend Ardeban who was <i>not Jewish</i>.

#2 Comment By boruch ben tzvi hakohaine hoffinger On October 16, 2007 @ 8:26 pm

To satisfy the ACLU why doesn’t Gov. Charlie Crist put many symbols in his office.
He can put some of them on the back shelf.
This way he is neutral, not showing favoritism to any one in particular?
(Just leave the mezuzah on the front door!)

#3 Comment By Horoah B-avodas Hashem On October 16, 2007 @ 8:56 pm

Added Sen. Ronda Storms, a Brandon Republican: “The Constitution gives us the freedom of religion, not the freedom from religion.”

Ah, this is something to farbreng about!

#4 Comment By elchonon On October 16, 2007 @ 9:06 pm

The ACLU is a communist / leftist group doing every thing they can to stamp out g-d and religioun while constantly claiming to represent freedom…

#5 Comment By Hope On October 17, 2007 @ 12:08 am

That saying of "Freedom of Religion not freedom from religion" was originated by Nathan Lewin, Esq. chabad’s lawyer in the supreeme court menorah actions. Its greate that its catching on. Lets hope one day the government will pay for "all" childrens education so that the PS kids won’t be free from religion and we will stop being discriminated against because of religion.

#6 Comment By Bal Tosif On October 17, 2007 @ 11:05 pm

Why is a non-Jew putting up a mezuzah? He has no mitzvah to do so. Why is Chabad helping him do so? Bal Tosif.

#7 Comment By Outraged II On October 16, 2007 @ 10:02 pm

And to those who would counter that the Shluchim who are welcomed by the President of the United States each year have occasionally presented the President with a Menora as a gift of gratitude, a Menora as a gift is just that- a gift. The President never lights the Menora himself, but rather keeps it as religious memorabilia. It would have been better for the Governor of Florida to keep the Mezuza on his desk or somewhere else, where it would be more appropriate to be placed. When the Rebbe sent a mezuza to a Goy, did the Rebbe instruct him to place it on his door post?
Hamaskil Yavin.

#8 Comment By Outraged On October 16, 2007 @ 9:56 pm

To tell you the truth, it IS a little disturbing for a shliach to help a goy (Governor or not) place a mezuza on his office door. (Or condone this act.) May I facetiously ask which bracha Rabbi Oirechman made? (I know one of you quick, brilliant geniuses will respond that since he’s a goy, he’s not mechuyav to have the mezuza erected, so obviously no bracha would have had to have been made. Thank you in advance for your esteemed erudition.)
Please don’t try to justify this silly act by Rabbi Oirechman to try and get his name and face in the paper by claiming the Rebbe did it as well. Are we the Rebbe? Does everything the Rebbe did justify us committing an act which does not fit in with Jewish tradition and Halacha? Ask a Rav Mo’ireh Hora’ah, and he will tell you that it’s flat out Ossur to put up a mezuza on a goy’s door.
The Rebbe’s the Rebbe- we cannot mimic what the Rebbe did, he had his reasons which are not up to us to try to validate or apply to our own lives.
It kind of reminds me of a shliach in Russia last year (or it may have been the year before)conducting a lighting of the Chanuka Menorah with the town’s Galach.
I envy the Shluchim, but there’s always that one guy who corrupts the idea of shlichus and takes it too far by blatantly violating Halacha. Mivtzoim, Chesed, preparing the world for Moshiach’s arrival is one thing; perverting Shulchan Aruch for publicity is another.