Moncton city hall prompts criticism after cancelling annual menorah display

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Moncton, N.B., has ignited a firestorm of criticism for cancelling its annual menorah display, with at least one prominent critic suggesting the decision is related to tensions over the Israel-Hamas war.

Francis Weil, president of the Moncton Jewish Community, said Mayor Dawn Arnold gave Jewish leaders the news this week, blaming a 2015 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that council meetings should not open with prayer.

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Weil told the National Post on Saturday the argument made makes no sense, noting Christmas symbols remain on city hall grounds, which he supports. The menorah had been a 20-year tradition at city hall.

“We are not talking about prayer. In the place where the menorah goes, there are a couple Christmas trees and a few angels,” he said.

Arnold and the city’s media spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Post on Saturday. The CBC reported they did not reply to earlier requests from the national broadcaster.

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It comes at a time of rising antisemitism and anti-Israel demonstrations across Canada from pro-Palestinian supporters, including weekly demonstrations at Moncton city hall that Weil said have included pro-Hamas signs and slogans.

“That’s the first thing I told her, this is not the time to make this decision, because everyone will think you’re giving in,” Weil said, adding the mayor never acknowledged any connection to tensions, but did allude to wanting to avoid trouble.

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“At the time, she sort of said if there’s an incident at city hall, it would make headlines all over the country. But she didn’t say what incident.”

The decision was pilloried Saturday by national Jewish leaders and others.

“If some faith symbols are OK, but others are not, that’s discrimination. It’s not acceptable and must be immediately corrected,” the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said Saturday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Michael Levitt, president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the decision “reeks of discrimination” in a Saturday post on X.

“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,” Levitt said.

“There are a lot of people upset,” Dominic Cardy, a New Brunswick MLA and interim leader of the fledgling Canadian Future Party federally, said on Twitter. “This is already tarnishing our image across the country. Don’t give in to thugs. Please reverse this terrible decision.”

Cardy shared a post from prominent Moncton lawyer Mike Murphy connecting the move to the current conflict in the Mideast, which started on Oct. 7 when Hamas terrorists launched an attack on Israel, killing at least 1,200 Israelis, including babies and children, and raped and kidnaped women.

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“There are a lot of weak people out there. Team Hamas has won a round in Moncton with the Menorah being kept in storage. Our family lived side-by-side with the Jewish community here in the East End. I went to school with many from there. Shame!” said Murphy, a former New Brunswick justice minister.

Weil said that he will be writing all 10 city councillors asking them to reverse the decision, adding that Hanukkah starts Wednesday and there is still time.

“The mayor is a good person, I like her very much. But the way she is thinking just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

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