Moncton city council reverses decision to end menorah lighting, nativity scene display at city hall

The council had originally decided to end the 20-year tradition of menorah lighting in a closed-door meeting last week.

Moncton city council reverses decision to end menorah lighting, nativity scene display at city hall
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The city council of Moncton, New Brunswick, has reversed a decision that would have seen an end to the city's 20-year-strong tradition of lighting a Hanukkah menorah outside city hall.

Last week, in a closed-door meeting, the council voted not to display the menorah, along with a Christian nativity scene. After backlash, on Monday they reversed the decision in a unanimous vote calling to "immediately" display the menorah. The Jewish festival of lights is set to begin on Thursday night and will run until December 15. 

Councillor Daniel Bourgeois said that he regrets that the council had initially discussed the issue in a closed-door meeting. He said that most meetings are public but "there are some, very few, exceptions to the rule."

Before Monday's meeting, Mayor Dawn Arnold also said the council had acted too quickly and apologized. She said there was a "strong reaction" to the decision not to display the two religious symbols. Arnold said the council had wanted to be inclusive of all religions. 

The mayor said that the decision showed a "lack of reflection and understanding." At the meeting, she said, "We deeply regret the emotional distress caused by our insensitive decision."

"We remain committed to fostering and supporting an inclusive and diverse city where all members feel at home and represented. We will proudly display the menorah and the nativity scene, and we must do a better job of representing all religions within our community."

Moncton's Jewish community numbers around 200 people. Retired judge Irwin Lampert presented to the council before Monday's vote, saying that the community was not asking for special treatment but rather the continuing of a tradition "that means so much to us."

"We believe that reinstating the display will send a strong message against antisemitism and affirm Moncton's commitment towards diverse communities," he said.

Lampert said he knew the council members had the best interests of the city at heart and that he didn't ascribe any negative motives to them. 

Elsewhere, a Hanukkah celebration in Virginia was cancelled after organizers of an art and music festival felt that a menorah lighting "seemed very inappropriate" in light of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. 

"The concern is of folks feeling like we are siding with a group over the other... not a direction we ever decide to head," said Shirley Vermillion, the founder of the 2nd Sundays Art and Music Festival in Williamsburg, Virginia. 

A Star of David was also removed from a holiday display in Westbrook, Maine, after Arab-American residents complained about the image, according to the city's mayor. 

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