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NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. – The holiday message on a church sign in this Atlantic coastal community has raised some eyebrows, at least at the local NBC television station which thought a news story on it was necessary.
The inspirational sign in front of the Lighthouse Baptist Church is changed weekly, and for the past 15 years, there has been no objection to the slogans.
But a recent message stated, “Christmas easier to spell than Hanukkah.”
That, according to WPTV reporter Christina Noce, prompted some people to call the church demanding the sign be removed.
"It was not really offensive, just poor taste," said Alon Levkovitz, a rabbi at Temple Beth AM. "I really think it's the wrong message to send to their members. I am not offended by it as a Jew."
"If the church tries to celebrate one of the most important holidays by putting down another faith, it's definitely not the spirit of Hanukkah nor Christmas," he added.
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Michael Butzberger, the pastor at Lighthouse Church, was surprised by the reaction.
"We live in such a politically correct climate, hyper-politically correct, that people are literally searching for excuses to be offended and to be outraged," said Butzberger.
He says the messages selected for the sign are "certainly always intended to be something encouraging, inspiring, informative and occasionally just for the purpose of making people smile."
The pastor doesn't think his congregation should have to amend its signs just because others find messages offensive, but he did take down the Hanukkah quip.
The issue is now lighting up the season online.
Monica Lee writes, "I agree with the rabbi. It's bad taste. If I drove by a temple and it said, 'Hanukah has 7 more nights of presents than Christmas!' I would be annoyed that children like my godson would be confused about what they believe. Some jokes are funny among friends."
But Michael Field fired back: I'm so tired of the 'how do I explain that to my kids' mentality. If someone can't explain the differences between the holidays, why they are celebrated, and who celebrates it, then perhaps parenting isn't your strong suit. I was raised non-denominational, celebrating Christmas as a family holiday. I had Christian friends and Jewish friends, I understood the differences at an early age. When we were kids we would bust b-lls over the fact that some friends had no Christmas tree or Christmas morning and they would bust b-lls back about getting presents for 7 days. Nobody was offended, nobody cried about being 'picked on.' We are raising a nation of sissy kids. I can't wait to see professionals in a few years crying in front of their boss because they weren't treated fairly.
Carol Hecker Nason, an optometrist in South Florida, says: "I'm Jewish, I am liberal (mostly), I am not offended, AND the pastor is right, it IS easier to spell! Merry Christmas!"
Paul L. Gaba notes, "I find it quite humorous. I mean ... it's true ... especially since there's about 287 ways to spell Chanukah ... or Hanukkah ... or Hanukah ... or חנוכה ..."
Abraham Beane said, "Bad jokes happen to everyone. On the other hand, Chanukah or Hanukkah, or '8 days of candles and latkes' is kind of a bear to spell if you don't all the time. That said, Happy Winter Solstice!"
Jessica Andrea says: "Everyone is so uptight and gets so offended easily. When did our society become a society of whiny babies?
And Linda Friedman Georginow posted: "Yes, I often say, 'Oy' to this world. Happy Holidays!"