“This is a Christmas festival”: Catholic school drops Hanukkah song from concert

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A Hanukkah song was dropped from a Roman Catholic school concert just a day before the show after an official said the season’s focus should be on the birth of Jesus.

As a result, two music instructors who had been working with students declined to participate in the concert Tuesday night at Interlochen Arts Academy.

A traditional Jewish song, “Festival of Lights,” was on the program for a concert by students from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Middle School in Traverse City. The kids have been under the instruction of chorale director Jamie Geurkink and band director Cress Smith, under an agreement that puts public school teachers in Catholic schools.

Mike Buell, superintendent of Traverse City-area Catholic schools, scratched the Hanukkah song Monday and said students would have new leaders at the concert.

“I don’t have a problem with Jewish music,” Buell told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. “But this is a Christmas festival, and that’s what we’ve traditionally done. It’s a Christ-focused time of our Advent season.”

An official with the Traverse City school district said the Catholic school has a right to pick songs.

“We respect (their) desire to honor the belief of their congregation and to meet the needs of their faith and community,” assistant superintendent Jayne Mohr said.

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