Lakewood woman: It’s not my fault township took down menorah
The woman asked to have a nativity added to Lakewood's holiday display — prompting the township to take down the menorah that was already there — says she was misunderstood.
And Vivian Knight told New Jersey 101.5 — both in an on-air conversation with morning host Bill Spadea, and in an interview after — she never threatened legal action, even though it's the concern over litigation that prompted officials to remove the menorah.
She said she only wanted the nativity added to the Christmas tree and menorah in place: "It was never an intent to take the menorah down."
"I asked kindly to put a nativity up. I offered to donate a nativity at my expense, I offered to pay for it to be delivered and put up," she said.
The offer still stands, according to Knight.
Knight said she was sick after controversy broke out over the township's decision, and was not aware of it until this week.
"The menorah is beautiful as is the Christmas tree," Knight said she told officials at a meeting where she asked for the nativity to be added. "But the menorah is a religious symbol, and rightfully so, but the nativity is our religious symbol and it would be lovely if they're next to each other in harmony, kind of like we're all pulling together."
Knight said that had she been allowed to donate a nativity scene, "there'd be no need for any of this." She said "no" when asked if she threatened legal action.
The controversy started when Knight told the Rev. Wesley L. Lindquist of Calvary Lighthouse that she thought it would be nice to add a nativity to the Town Square. Lindquist notified Lakewood Mayor Albert Akerman of the idea and it was brought up at the Township Council meeting of Thursday, Dec. 3.
The township's attorney urged the council to take down the menorah and a second one in the town hall while he researched alternatives for the holiday display.
Akerman told New Jersey 101.5 that at the council meeting, Knight insisted that the menorah be taken down during the meeting.
"On Friday, she called all day to find out if we were taking down the menorah," he said.
He said Knight also came to the township hall and wanted the menorahs taken off the front desk and the town clerk's desk.
Akerman recalled that Knight spoke to him after the Dec. 3 meeting and, after asking several times for the menorah to be removed, said "we don't want a lawsuit do we?"
She made a similar comment to township attorney Steven Secare, according to Akerman, and also threatened to take the story to the media.
"I'll be the first to admit we never should have taken the menorah down even in the face of a lawsuit," Akerman said. "Enough people who are not Jewish pointed that out to me. One thing I learned is that the tolerant people have zero tolerance for intolerance."
The mayor said he's is willing to give Knight the benefit of the doubt — and said she might have been rattled by the way things went at the council meetings.
"Maybe things didn't go as she planned and she was improvising," Akerman said said. The mayor said he feels bad if she is she is hurt by the incident, but "she definately said that stuff."
Akerman said he isn't sure if Lakewood will have an official display next year because if a nativity were added "then you have to put up everything. Kwanzaa, a Fesitivus pole and all that."
The town council will discuss the menorah issue at their next meeting on Thursday night.