Around Town | November 4, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 4, 2011

Around Town

OF HUTS AND TREES ... When the Palo Alto Housing Corporation barred Abraham Berman last month from erecting a sukkah on a little-used, second-story patio of the Sheridan Avenue apartment building where he lives, it not only ended an 11-year tradition but it also rubbed the area's religious leaders the wrong way. Berman, 81, had been erecting the sukkah, a temporary hut, every year to commemorate the Jewish holiday, the Feast of Sukkot. The Housing Corporation, a nonprofit group that manages Sheridan Apartments, argued that he was putting up private property in a public area, in violation of the building's policy. Berman countered that the corporation routinely puts religious symbols into common areas, most notably Christmas trees and — as evidenced last week — Halloween decorations. Now, Berman has plenty of allies. Karen Stiller, director of the Peninsula region of the Jewish Community Relations Council, wrote a letter to the Housing Corporation saying the council was "greatly upset" by the decision on the sukkah and requests that Berman be allowed to build his sukkah in future years. "It is our understanding that other religious and cultural celebrations take place on the property of Sheridan, some even sponsored by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, such as for Christmas and Halloween," the letter stated. "We believe that Mr. Berman should be allowed a similar right. Putting up a Sukkah for just over a week in a common area that is not frequently used seems to be a very reasonable request and would help build community and celebrate the diverse traditions of the residents at the Sheridan." The letter was co-signed by 26 religious leaders, including more than 20 prominent rabbis; Maha Elgenaidi, CEO of the Islamic Networks Group; and the Rev. Bruce Bramlett, an Episcopal priest and scholar.

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