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The menorah outside Moncton City Hall in 2022. Image: Facebook/Moncton Jewish Community

Moncton votes to allow menorah, nativity scene at City Hall

By Brad Perry Dec 4, 2023 | 6:39 PM

Moncton City Council has backtracked on an earlier decision not to display the menorah and nativity scene at City Hall.

During Monday’s regular meeting, councillors unanimously adopted a motion to immediately display the religious symbols.

The vote followed days of what the mayor described as “strong reaction” to council’s previous decision on the matter.

“The City wanted to be more inclusive toward our community by repositioning these faith symbols; however, we obviously fell short in this transition,” Mayor Dawn Arnold said in a statement.

“Despite our best intentions to do the right thing, we acted too quickly. We apologize if our actions showed a lack of support toward any members of our community.”

A second motion asking the city’s Social Inclusion Committee to consult with the religious communities on how to display religious symbols on city property was also approved. The group’s findings and recommendations will be brought to council no later than Aug. 31, 2024.

The Moncton Jewish Community said it was informed last week of the city’s decision to end the 20-year tradition of displaying the menorah.

President Francis Weil said that the decision was unfair and profoundly hurt the city’s Jewish population.

“The reason that it’s so important for Jews to see the menorah at City Hall is because, for us, it’s a sign of being accepted,” Weil said in an interview Monday morning.

“In a world where antisemitism has been too often present — and continues to grow — this acceptance is important.”

City staff cited a 2015 Supreme Court decision to ban religious prayers at municipal council meetings as the reason for no longer allowing the menorah, he said.

Weil said it was it was disheartening for the Jewish community to see the Christmas tree and angels remain outside City Hall while the menorah was not allowed.

“The Jewish Community is happy that the tree and the angels remain, but so should the menorah,” he said.

An online petition to reinstate the menorah garnered more than 7,000 signatures ahead of Monday’s council vote.

Several Liberal and Conservative MPs also spoke out against council’s initial decision, including Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe MP Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Beauséjour MP Dominic Leblanc, and Fundy Royal MP Rob Moore.