The Jewish community in the Canadian city of Moncton, located in the province of New Brunswick, is voicing its discontent with the city’s mayor, after they were told a menorah will not be displayed outside city hall during the holiday of Hanukkah, an annual tradition that has 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, reported Global News.
“The City of Moncton has informed the Moncton Jewish Community that it will no more set up the Hanukkah Menorah in front of City Hall, a tradition that was started twenty years ago,” the statement said, 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.”
Leigh Lampart, 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 Hanukkah tradition which has taken place for decades.
“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.
“We asked ‘Why the decision? Why now? And why was the decision taken place behind closed doors?'” Lampart added, saying he didn’t receive a “satisfactory answer” to any of those three questions.
Despite Lampart 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,” Lampart said, adding, “But to ban the Menorah and the nativity scene and not the angels or Christmas trees, that is by definition: discrimination.”
The Moncton Jewish Community group said that it hopes the Moncton City Council will reverse its decision.
Michael Levitt, President and CEO Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC), criticized the decision and wrote on X, “The decision to ban the menorah from Chanukah celebrations at Moncton City Hall, for first time in 20 years, while the Christmas tree and angels remain, 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,” he added.
FSWC has also launched a letter writing campaign to Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold, urging her to reverse the decision.
“It is more important than ever that the glowing light of the menorah shine at Moncton City Hall, an opportunity to bring Jews and non-Jews together to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights,” said Levitt.
In addition, an online petition has been launched calling on the city to reinstate the display of the menorah. As of Sunday night, the petition had been signed by more than 2,000 people.