A Brooklyn Heights woman is claiming her freedom of worship is being denied because a menorah is not allowed in the lobby of her co-op building.
Justine Swartz, who also goes by the name Justine Juggler because of her ability to juggle seven items at one time, alleges that this Chanukah it is forbidden to light a menorah and pray in the lobby of her building at 24-30 Clinton Street.
“My building’s menorah lights have been extinguished,” said Swartz. “I have not kept the Jewish commandment that requires the menorah to be lit in a public place.”
Swartz, who has lived in the building for about 25 years, said at one time the lobby boasted both a Christmas tree and a menorah, but now the building is decorated only with non-religious holiday ornaments, wreaths and holly.
Swartz said when she complained to the BPC Management Corporation, who manage the property, she was told, “You wouldn’t want a Nativity scene, would you?”
But Swartz countered that she wouldn’t mind a Nativity scene and even helped decorate the Christmas tree when they used to put it up until recent years.
She also believes Kwanza should be represented in the lobby.
“I believe space should be made available in this season of brotherly love for all people that want to pray and pay respect to God,” she said.
Swartz believes the entire situation stems from the current co-op board who have made new bylaws prohibiting any display of religious representation in the common areas of the building.
A spokesperson for BPC Management Corporation said the co-op board makes the rules and refused further comment.
Neither Co-Op Board President Paul Schmitt or Vice President Carol Desantis could be reached for comment at press time.
In the meantime, Swartz has an ally in 84-year-old longtime resident Joan Roll.
“They used to have both a Christmas tree and a menorah,” recalled Roll. “It would be fine with me to have them again, and I don’t know why they got rid of them.”