Westbrook’s mayor said he will not seek reelection when his term is up because he has received “hundreds of threatening emails and calls” since the American Journal reported that the city removed a Star of David from its holiday light display.

“I’m always honest and transparent. Now I find myself in a job where my honesty and transparency has failed me, and realize this is no longer a job for me and I will never run for elected office again,” Mayor Michael Foley said in an email to the editor of the American Journal Sunday.

A dreidel replaces the Star of David on a pole at Main and Stroudwater streets in Westbrook. Robert Lowell / American Journal

The newspaper reported last week that the city had replaced a decoration depicting the Star of David, a historic symbol of the Jewish faith, with a lighted dreidel image following a complaint from a member of the local Arab American community. The complainant viewed the star as “the city taking a side in the (Israeli-Hamas) war, we’re supporting one country over another,” Foley told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a story that ran in the Jerusalem Post Dec. 1.

Foley told the American Journal that the intention of the star was to represent Hanukkah. After the complaint and before removing the decoration, he consulted with the New England Arab American Organization, which is based in Westbrook. The organization did not make the complaint about the star nor request its removal.

In an interview Monday, Foley declined to provide details about the threats he has received. In his email Sunday, he said he had been contacted multiple times by a man who attends the same church he attends. Foley said the man wanted him to “man up” and face off with him after church on Sunday.

“The attacks have resulted in me not sleeping at all this week and now I don’t even feel comfortable going to my own place of worship,” Foley wrote.


The Westbrook Police Department did not respond to an inquiry Monday about the threats.

The New England Arab American Organization has also received threats, Foley said in his letter.

A representative from the NEAAO did not respond Monday to a request for comment about the threats.

In a statement Friday, the group said, “NEAAO stands in solidarity with our Jewish community, Arab community and any other community in recognizing their rights for their religious symbols to be displayed on their private properties and on public properties in accordance with local laws.

“NEAAO never complained about, requested to be removed, or removed any religious symbols. NEAAO is and remains a community-based organization that is non-religious and non-political, and that serves all community members regardless of their religion or affiliation. Part of our mission is to build bridges between cultures and celebrate diversity.”

Foley said the threats are the result of people being “misinformed” because of the American Journal article. He declined to provide what the misinformation was, except to say “people only read the headline.”


Posts on Westbrook community groups on Facebook about the removal of the Star of David say it deserves a place in the city’s holiday light display. Some said the city shouldn’t have given in to complaints of just one person or a few. Only one post specifically called out the mayor for the removal.

Foley said last week that a Public Services employee installed the Star of David at the corner of Main and Stroudwater streets to support the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, which begins Thursday, and it was not meant to be seen as a religious symbol. “It seemed to be an honest mistake with positive intentions,” he said.

In email Sunday he said, “An employee at the city made a mistake and now I’ve had to bear the entire burden for this.”

In a written statement Friday, “Once we were alerted to this light’s installation, we removed it based upon legal requirements which prohibit government entities from forms of government speech that constitute endorsement of a religion. We know this is a frustrating decision for some members of our community. However, we take our legal responsibilities very seriously and this means providing a light show that everyone in our diverse community can equally enjoy.”

He said he has been in contact with the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine and it supports the display of the dreidel.

The city also was in contact with Rabbi Moshe Wilansky of Chabad of Maine in Portland, he said. Chabad of Maine will host a public menorah lighting as part of a Hanukkah celebration at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, at Westbrook Common. The mayor is scheduled to speak, according to a flyer about the celebration. Latkes, doughnuts, chocolate gelt and Hanukkah music will also be part of the event.

Foley ran unopposed and was reelected in November 2022 and has two more years to serve as mayor.

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