One of London’s biggest hospitals has ordered a rabbi to remove a nine-foot menorah from its main entrance, just one week after granting permission for it to go on display.
The Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead told Rabbi Yossi Simon of Lubavitch outreach organisation Tzivos Hashem, which displays menorahs across London at this time of year including those in Golders Green and at Alexandra Palace, to remove the festive candelabra on Wednesday.
A Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust spokesperson told the Jewish News: “A genuine mistake was made in authorising the menorah to be erected in the hospital’s main entrance.
“It was allowed by someone who is not fully aware of the trust’s usual practice that public areas in the hospital are used to support the work of the hospital.”
The spokesperson for the hospital, which has a holiday tree on display outside the main entrance, added: “We would like to apologise for the error and for any disappointment caused.
“The trust is fully aware of the importance of faith for many of our patients, staff and visitors, which is why we have a facility for religious observance in a multi- faith chapel. Our Jewish chaplain has arranged for candles to be lit in the chapel, as is our normal practice.”
She added: “Our hospial’s tree is part of the celebration of the holiday which many people of different faiths celebrate. There is a place for religious observance within the hospital.”
Chanie Simon, wife of Rabbi Yossi Simon, said: “I don’t agree that everyone celebrates the Xmas holiday and that Chanukah is less significant. When my husband put the menorah up, many people, Jewish and non-Jewish, seemed happy that it was there.”
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, said: “I don’t think many people would expect to see a chanukiah alongside Xmas decorations, although such a display would be entirely unremarkable in the United States. What is more regrettable is why the Royal Free needs to characterise the citing of a chanukiah as a mistake and an error when it isn’t something that should trouble anyone.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron sent a personal Chanukah message to the Jewish community. He said: “I pass on my very best wishes to the Jewish community here and around the world for a happy and peaceful Chanukah.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband also entered into the festive spirit. He said: “Best wishes to British Jews for a happy Chanukah this week, from my family to yours, and to the millions of people all over the world enjoying this ancient and enduring holiday.”