MONCTON, N.B. — Councillors in Moncton, N.B., have reversed a decision that would have ended a 20-year tradition of lighting a Hanukkah menorah in front of city hall.
They voted unanimously Monday to "immediately" display the menorah — and a Christian nativity scene — after their decision last week during a closed-door meeting to scrap the religious symbols prompted an outcry.
Coun. Daniel Bourgeois said during Monday's meeting that he regrets that council had deliberated on the matter in private. Most meetings are public, he said, adding, "There are some, very few, exceptions to the rule."
Before Monday's reversal, Mayor Dawn Arnold apologized and said council had acted too quickly. She said there was a "strong reaction" to the city's decision against installing the menorah or the Christian nativity scene outside city hall.
Describing the initial decision as a "repositioning" of the faith symbols, Arnold said council had wanted to be inclusive of all religions.
"Despite our best intentions to do the right thing, we acted too quickly," she said, acknowledging there was "a lack of reflection and understanding" of the decision's impact. "We apologize if our actions showed a lack of support toward any members of our community.”
At the council meeting, she added to the apology. "We deeply regret the emotional distress caused by our insensitive decision," she said.
"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."
Retired provincial court judge Irwin Lampert, who made a presentation to council on Monday before the vote, said the city's Jewish community, composed of about 200 people, was not asking for special treatment but the continuation of a long-standing 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.
"I know that you are good people and have the best interests of the city at heart. And I don't ascribe negative motives to any of you. I often say that it takes highly intelligent people to make very bad decisions. I think that's what happened here."
Lawyer Leigh Lampert, a member of the Moncton synagogue’s board of directors, welcomed the reversal and said everyone should be able to celebrate their faith in a multicultural society.
"It was a painful few days but I think, ultimately, the right decision was made," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2023.
The Canadian Press