Seniors decry ban on Christmas tree in their complex in Newhall
By Mariecar Mendoza, Staff Writer
Residents in a Newhall senior apartment complex are protesting an order from management to remove their beloved Christmas tree from the community room because, they were told, it’s a religious symbol.
On Tuesday, Tarzana-based JB Partners Group Inc. sent a memo to staff at The Willows senior apartment building demanding they take down Christmas trees and menorahs in communal areas.
The company has owned The Willows for four years, but this is the first time it’s given such a directive to staff.
On Wednesday, two dozen residents in the 75-resident complex gathered in the lobby to place a neon green sign that read: “Please Save Our Tree.”
“We’re all angry. We want that tree,” said Fern Scheel, who has lived at the complex for nearly two years. “Where’s our freedom? This is ridiculous.”
The Willows staff and JB Property supervisor Wethanie Law declined to comment.
JB Partners Group owns apartments in California, Oklahoma and Colorado.
Resident Edna Johnson said Law had told her the tree had to be taken down because it’s a religious symbol.
“We could put out Easter baskets, have turkey for Thanksgiving but no tree for Christmas because it has Christ’s name in the beginning of Christmas,” Johnson said.
Frances Schaeffer, who is Jewish, said she doesn’t understand the property management company’s stance.
“This tree is a symbol of reverence that we can all enjoy regardless of our religious
beliefs,” she said.Max Greenis who has lived at the complex for a year with his wife, Bonnie, said he’s considering withholding his rent in protest of what he calls an abomination of the holiday tradition.
“I’ve got grandkids and they come here and now they’ll ask, `Grandpa, where’s the Christmas tree?’ Then I’ll have to explain that someone said we couldn’t have one. What kind of message is that sending to the kids?” Greenis asked.
After the protest – really more of a gathering over coffee and dougnuts to angrily air their concerns – some residents got so riled that they began taking the tree apart themselves. Some even took parts of the artificial tree back to their apartments in defiance.
“For some folks this is the only Christmas tree they’ll have all season,” resident Robert Troudeau said. “There are people overseas fighting for our freedoms and dying and we’re here fighting over things like this. It’s a shame.”