Jewish Belgian lawmaker slammed for lighting menorah near nativity scene

Two local politicians representing Freilich’s center-right N-VA party complained that his actions go against the separation of religion and state.

All Rabbinic commentaries agree that the light of Hanukkah candles may not be used for our own benefit - we are not even permitted to use the light from the flames to read in a dimly lit room (photo credit: REUTERS)
All Rabbinic commentaries agree that the light of Hanukkah candles may not be used for our own benefit - we are not even permitted to use the light from the flames to read in a dimly lit room
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A video by the only Orthodox Jewish lawmaker in the Belgium Federal Parliament lighting candles there on Hanukkah near a nativity scene is provoking angry reactions, including from members of his own party.
Michael Freilich is seen walking through Parliament with a menorah as he passes multiple Christmas trees and other holiday symbols. Then he lights the menorah in a smaller room with a Christmas tree and nativity scene, which celebrates the birth of Jesus, in the background.
Two local politicians representing Freilich’s center-right N-VA party complained that his actions go against the separation of religion and state.
“Secularism is for everyone or for none at all,” one of the politicians, Pinar Akbas, wrote on Twitter. He also demanded “clarification,” De Morgen reported Friday.
Pieter Boudry, another party representative, also protested.
“No religious clothes and symbols for politicians and civil servants,” he wrote about the video.
Freilich told the media that he did not pray while lighting the candles in the video, meaning the action was an expression of his tradition and not an act of worship.
“If we allow Christmas trees and a nativity scene, the menorah is as similar a cultural Jewish heritage item and should not be banned,” Freilich told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
He said his party agrees with this reasoning despite the objections of some of its members.