The Dunwoody Homeowners Association is looking for a new location for its annual Light Up Dunwoody event.
DHA president Robert Wittenstein said the organization is moving the annual holiday festival because the Dunwoody Preservation Trust, which owns the property where the event has been held for more than a decade, would not agree to display a 6-foot menorah alongside the lighted Christmas tree.
“We felt those symbols should be displayed together,” Wittenstein said.
The trust on Oct. 13 told the DHA it should not display either the menorah or the Christmas tree at the event. Trust Co-President Dolores Lauderdale said that because some people believe a Christmas tree is a religious symbol, the trust had no choice but to ask the DHA to move the tree to another location.
The homeowners group sponsors the Light Up Dunwoody event, which was scheduled for Nov. 22 at the Cheek-Spruill farmhouse, located at 5455 Chamblee Dunwoody Road.
Wittenstein said Oct. 14 that the DHA had just begun looking for a new location for the event, but he was optimistic a new site would be found.
“The DHA will look for another location for the tree, menorah and Light Up Dunwoody,” Wittenstein said. “Obviously, we have some work to do.”
Wittenstein said the DHA board had decided to find a new location for Light Up Dunwoody before the trust board made its decision. “We had taken a vote of the DHA executive committee and we told them if the menorah wasn’t welcome, then the DHA was going to find another location for the tree,” Wittenstein said.
DHA board member Stacey Harris said she and Wittenstein had received an email last year in which the trust board members denied the request for the menorah outright.
Wittenstein said during the Oct. 4 meeting he was disappointed by that decision.
“I wasn’t disappointed, I was pissed off,” Harris said. “It’s the most offensive email I’ve ever read.”
Wittenstein said on Oct. 14 he was surprised by the trust’s final decision not to include a menorah. In an email to DHA board members informing them of the vote, Wittenstein said he was “flabbergasted” by the response.
“I want to express my disappointment and to some degree my amazement at their unwillingness to be more inclusive,” Wittenstein said.
But Lauderdale said the decision was made in keeping with the trust’s mission of inclusivity.
“It is their tree and they can put it anywhere they want, but we had to establish that we felt like we were excluding other organizations,” Lauderdale said. “This is a secular event and there are some individuals in the community that feel the tree is non secular so we’ve had to say we can’t have any [symbols].”