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Despite uncertainty, Moncton lights its Menorah Thursday night

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With the Menorah standing tall outside of Moncton’s City Hall, officials with the Jewish community prepared to mark another year of Hanukah on Thursday night.

“Hanukah is a festival that last eight days and it happens that we lit one candle each night, one more candle each night, so tonight there will be one candle, tomorrow two and so on,” said Moncton Jewish Community president, Francis Weil.

“Usually this is done within households, for the families, but there will be also a public lighting here in Moncton.”

The first candle was planned to be lit at 5:45 p.m. outside of city hall followed by a small celebration inside the lobby.

Earlier this week, in a unanimous vote on Monday night, City Council passed a motion to set up both the Menorah and nativity scene outside of city hall.

This came after controversy and backlash when the city first decided, behind closed doors, to not set up religious symbols this year.

“It makes us very very happy and we’re very thankful to city hall,” said Weil.

“We do understand why they had to think about it, but they very quickly realized and they had a unanimous decision to change it.”

Francis Weil, president of the Moncton Jewish Community, on December 7, 2023. (CTV/Alana Pickrell)

Despite the city’s original decision that the event, which has been taking place for 20 years, would not be honoured, the Moncton Jewish Community invited everyone from the city, including a direct invitation to councillors on Monday night, to come and be a part of the ceremony.

Weil says not only is it a chance to mark the start of Hanukah, but it is also a chance to share another important message.

“We want to show everyone that in fact the relations between city hall and the Jews, between the Jews and the rest of the population, are good. We don’t want people to stay with the idea that there was some kind of friction,” he said.

“What happened was not due to hatred against the Jews, it was due for some other reason and for us, it’s important to make sure that the rest of Canada continue to view Moncton as a welcoming city.”

He adds that it’s also a chance to acknowledge the support that was seen over the last several days.

“There were thousands and thousands of people in the city, in the region and throughout Canada that wrote,” he said.

“They wrote to city council and because of that I think they were instrumental in the final decision, so we want, in a way, to thank everybody.”

Usually, Weil says the annual Menorah lighting sees less than a dozen attendees, but this year, he isn’t even sure there will be enough space in the City Hall lobby to host everyone he expects will come out.

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