Dexter Student Rep for City Council Leads the Effort for Inclusive Holiday Decorations

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| 1 min | by Doug Marrin |

Dexter High School Student Representative Alex Gilbert, who sits in with Dexter City Council, has been charged with exploring ways the City can make the holidays more inclusive for different faiths and practices.

"I think that for all of us maybe we can look into these holidays and just learn about new cultures that are interesting to other people and so we can understand what other people do," Alex told the Council at its November 30, 2020 meeting.

In his written report, Alex gave an update on his effort. "Over the past few weeks, I have reached out to various community groups and researched what other communities have done to increase belonging in their cities. I have found that multicultural decorations are limited. I believe that displaying more diverse decorations can be a key step to promoting inclusion at a local level."

Of the groups contacted, only one responded—Rabbi Nadav Caine of Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor. Rabbi Caine noted that inclusion efforts must be made in good faith. Otherwise, the moves could appear ingenuine. He suggested the display of decorations such as the Star of David, menorahs, and dreidels. Additionally, he asked to remove the nativity scene, stating that it is "jarring to us since it goes from decoration to a kind of colonialist theology."

For a start, Alex suggests an intersection between Christmas and Hanukkah in Monument Park by displaying dreidels and presents. He also recommends wrapping a few streetlights with garlands in the traditional Hanukkah colors of blue and white. He would like to see other community members encouraged to participate with displays meaningful to them and downtown businesses decorating their storefronts in different traditions.

Councilmember Jamie Griffin expressed the City's need to be authentic in its inclusive efforts. "I know everybody is very aware of issues surrounding inclusion, and I think those are all positive changes. I wouldn't want to assume what displays people in our community would want without some effort to reach out to them."

The Council’s overall feedback to Gilbert was to continue reaching out to other faith groups in an effort to get their involvement. Knowing the time is short for getting much done this holiday season, Alex hopes to set the future groundwork. "I think that right now is a very time important time for moving forward with understanding other people's beliefs, cultures, and practices. I think now is a great time more than ever to start making that progress."

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