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Jewish community in Moncton, N.B. ‘hurt profoundly’ as menorah won’t be displayed at city hall

Click to play video: 'Giant menorah lit in downtown Vancouver to celebrate Hanukkah'
Giant menorah lit in downtown Vancouver to celebrate Hanukkah
Sunday’s heavy snowfall did not stop the faithful from gathering to light a giant menorah at the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza to celebrate Hanukkah. – Dec 19, 2022

Moncton’s Jewish community is voicing their discontent with the city’s mayor after they were told a menorah will not be displayed outside city hall during Hannukah, an annual tradition that’s occurred for the past 20 years.

The Moncton Jewish Community, a group representing about 100 families of Jewish people in the region, released a statement on Friday sharing their grievances with the decision allegedly made by the mayor and city representatives.

“The City of Moncton has informed the Moncton Jewish Community that it will no more set up the Chanukah (Hannukah) Menorah in front of City Hall, a tradition that was started twenty years ago,” the statement read, adding the city cited a 2015 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that banned religious prayers at municipal council meetings as a factor that led to their decision.

“Some members of the Jewish community have met the mayor to explain that this decision is unfair and hurts profoundly the Jewish population of Moncton.”

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Global News reached out to Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold’s office for comment but didn’t receive a response in time for publication.

Leigh Lampert, a lawyer and member of the Moncton synagogue board of directors, who attended the meeting virtually, said he “suspected something was up” when the synagogue contacted the city to make arrangements for the annual Hannukah tradition which has taken place for decades.

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“We were invited to a meeting with the mayor and one of the town councillors and a couple representatives from the city, in which a decision was conveyed that this year the Menorah was going to be banned from city hall, as was the nativity scene,” he said during an interview Sunday on the Roy Green Show.

“We asked ‘Why the decision? Why now? And why was the decision taken place behind closed doors?'”

Lampert said he didn’t receive a “satisfactory answer” to any of those three questions, mentioning that he was told it was something that the city was thinking about for “quite some time.”

Despite Lampert noting that city officials said the menorah’s removal was to separate church from state, a Christmas Tree still stands outside Moncton’s city hall while telephone poles along Main Street remain decorated with angel figures.

“We don’t object to any of those being present, we think everyone should have their symbols at this time or any time of the year,” Lampert said.

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“But to ban the Menorah and the nativity scene and not the angels or Christmas trees, that is by definition: discrimination.”

The statement from the Moncton Jewish Community group added that the menorah is an important symbol of acceptance for people in the Jewish community. Traditionally, the first candle of the nine-branch menorah is ignited after sundown to initiate the beginning of Hannukah, accompanied by prayer and songs, continuing for the next eight days.

“In a world where antisemitism has been too often present (and continues to grow), this acceptance is important,” the statement said.

“It is unfair because Chanukah is a festival celebrating tolerance and freedom of religion, a value worth sharing with everyone.”

The Moncton Jewish Community group said that it hopes the Moncton City Council will reverse its decision.

Reflecting on the legality of the decision, Lampert said the Supreme Court ruling the city cited as a determining factor in removing the Menorah was largely focused on the concept of prayers being said during council meetings.

“If you read the case, I don’t even believe it supports this decision,” he said.

Hannukah begins at sundown on Thursday.

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