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Moncton City Hall Refuses to Display Menorah for First Time in 20 Years, Says Jewish Community President

Francis Weil of the Moncton Jewish Community says the city cited a 2015 Supreme Court ruling that bans religious prayers at municipal council meetings.

Francis Weil of the Moncton Jewish Community says the city cited a 2015 Supreme Court ruling that bans religious prayers at municipal council meetings. The menorah won’t be on display in front of Moncton city hall this year during Chanukah—for the first time since the tradition began 20 years ago—says a Jewish community leader from the New Brunswick capital city in a Dec. 1 press release. Francis Weil, president of the Moncton Jewish Community, said the City of Moncton has informed him that it will no longer set up the multi-branched candelabra during Judaism’s “festival of lights” outside its city hall. Also spelled Hanukkah, the holiday is celebrated from Dec. 7 to Dec. 15 this year.

Mr. Weil said the city made its case by citing a 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled against allowing religious prayers at municipal council meetings, as first reported by the CBC on Dec. 1. “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,” Mr. Weil said in the press release, posted on the community’s Facebook page. The menorah is a central symbol of the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah. which celebrates the liberation of Jerusalem by a small group of Jewish fighters. They lit a menorah in the Holy Temple with a tiny supply of ritually pure oil, and it stayed lit for eight days.

Noting that Christmas symbols are allowed to remain on city hall grounds, which his community supports, Mr. Weil said the city’s decision about the Jewish symbol is unfair. “It is unfair because, while banning the Jewish Menorah, the Christmas tree and the angels that are on City Hall ground will remain. The Jewish Community is happy that the tree and the angels remain, but so should the Menorah,” the president said. He added that it is unfair also because the decision comes at a time when “pro-Hamas people are demonstrating in front of City Hall, giving the appearance that City Council is giving in to their demands.” The Epoch Times reached out to Mayor Dawn Arnold’s office to confirm the menorah decision and Mr. Weil’s claims but did not hear back by publication time. The city’s director of corporate communications, Isabelle LeBlanc, said the city will issue “something on this” on Dec. 4.

News of the alleged menorah ban triggered a barrage of criticism against Ms. Arnold and Moncton city council. Federal Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman said the decision is “disturbing” and “reminiscent of a different and much darker time in our history.” “Without freedom of religion there is no freedom,” she said on X on Dec. 2. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), an advocacy group, that represents Jewish federations across Canada, probed Ms. Arnold on an allegation by another Jewish community leader who said the mayor cited separation of church and state as the rationale for the decision. Moncton-based lawyer Leigh Lampert, a member of the Moncton synagogue board of directors, was one of the Jewish community members along with Mr. Weil and others who met with Ms. Arnold on Nov. 30 to discuss the alleged ban. According to Mr. Lampert, the group was told that city hall “was not a place for religious symbols,” the CBC article said. CIJA responded on Dec. 2. “@MayorMoncton Arnold, if some faith symbols are ok, but others are not, that’s discrimination. It’s not acceptable & must be immediately corrected,” the group said on X. Michael Levitt, president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, said the decision “reeks of discrimination” “This inexplicable decision, made under the guise of separation of church and state, is being bemoaned by the local Jewish community and must not stand,” said the former Liberal MP on X on Dec. 2. In a series of tweets, Chris Collins, a former speaker of the New Brunswick legislative assembly, said the decision is “incredible” and called for Ms. Arnold to reverse the decision immediately. Mr. Collins’s tweet on X on Dec. 2 included a statement by Dave Steeves, a Moncton city councillor, who says he does not support the city’s decision. “As a reverend in the Moncton faith community, I believe that all religious symbols ought to be displayed at the appropriate time of year as a gesture of inclusiveness and welcome,” said Mr. Steeves, who represents Ward 3. The city councillor said the timing of the decision is “extremely insensitive and callous” toward the Jewish community. “An important decision such as this should be made in public,” he said. Mr. Steeves argued that the city’s reference to the Supreme Court ruling in 2015 does not hold water. The City of Moncton chose “to display the Menorah for the past eight years, since 2015, and for years before such.” The city councillor questioned the “lack of transparency” on the issue, as no press release was issued before the decision was made, and neither were there public consultations nor any discussions with faith-based stakeholders conducted. “I am calling for the City of Moncton to revisit this issue in a public forum, at the earliest possible opportunity, and pause any actions on this issue until such a meeting takes place,” Mr. Steeves said. The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

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