The Arrondissement of Outremont (Montréal) in Canada forbade the parishioners of St Nicholas Cathedral (ROCOR) from performing their traditional procession of the cross on Pascha, a practice held regularly for over half a century (Outremont is near the geographical centre of “The Island”). For the first time since the founding of St Nicholas Cathedral in Outremont QC, Montréal television reported that local authorities banned the ceremony. After some tension between a local Hasidic group and neighbourhood residents who were upset by their noisy Purim celebrations, the authorities banned any sort of parades and demonstrations until 1 June.
Outremont Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars expressed sympathy for the church, explaining that this ban is part of an attempt to quell rising tensions. Isabel Brunet, a local resident, however, says that the conflict has no connection with the Russian Orthodox parish. “The procession of the cross happens every spring, and it never caused any problems”. Fr Michael Metni, second priest at the Cathedral, called upon his parishioners to appeal to the authorities in hopes of resolving the matter. “We aren’t part of that community, and they aren’t part of ours. The parishioners will still gather for the procession, which has been held regularly for fifty years, though it may not extend past the church property [this time]”. By the mayor’s initiative, volunteers from various communities will form a special committee to find a mutually-acceptable solution to the situation, according to Montrealgazette.com. If they succeed, the parishioners of St Nicholas Cathedral can perform the Paschal procession of the cross around the block as always next year.
Official ROCOR website
Parishioners at one Russian Orthodox parish in Outremont won’t be allowed to hold their procession planned for next Saturday night. That’s because the Arrondissement of Outremont banned parades and processions, including those for Orthodox Easter. The ban resulted after strained relations between some Outremont residents and ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jews. Fr Michael Metni is disappointed that authorities outlawed the annual procession, which his St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church on St Joseph Boulevard has held for 50 years. Metni encouraged his parishioners to work to reverse the ban by appealing to a higher power, saying, “We tell them to pray, and the Good Lord will resolve it. Man proposes and God disposes, we always say”.
Parishioners believe that the Arrondissement of Outremont shouldn’t involve their church in a conflict between some residents and the Hasidic Jewish community. Peter Paganuzzi, a parishioner at St Nicholas, said, “We’re not part of their group, and they’re not part of ours. I don’t know what their problems are there, but they have to resolve them themselves”. Outremont Arrondissement Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars said that she sympathises with the church’s position, however, she and a majority of councillors voted Monday to ban processions and parades until 1 June.
The measure comes in the wake of a shouting match on Durocher St between Independent Arrondissement Councillor Céline Forget and some Hasidic Jews celebrating Purim in March. The conflict required police intervention. The mayor says the ban on processions and parades is an attempt to stop the tensions from growing. However, one neighbour argued that it is wrong to punish St Nicholas for an unrelated conflict. Nearby resident Isabelle Brunet said, “I think it’s too bad because I’ve been living there for a few years. They’ve been doing that procession every spring and there was never any trouble”. Brunet noted that student protesters flouted the rule without any penalty. “Why were student protesters recently allowed to march on the streets? Nobody did anything to stop that and that really ticks me off.” Parishioners plan to keep the traditional 50-year-old Easter procession alive by conducting the procession on church grounds.
As quoted in Pravoslavie.ru
The half-century-old Easter procession at St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral in the Arrondissement of Outremont in Montréal was cancelled, caught in the crosswinds of a conflict over faith and public space. In an unusual move, the Arrondissement of Outremont banned street parades and processions in response to an escalation of tensions involving another religious group… its ultra-orthodox community of Hasidic Jews. This marks the latest dispute between the expanding Hasidic community and its mostly secular neighbours in Outremont, a central neighbourhood in Montréal that’s home to Québec’s intellectual and political class.
The mayor and a majority of councillors in Outremont voted Monday to put processions on ice following a nasty confrontation last month between a municipal councillor known for her dogged surveillance of the Hasidic community, and members of that community. The clash… taped and posted on YouTube… degenerated into shouting, name-calling, and an intervention by police. In response, Outremont decided that it wouldn’t allow a Hasidic sect to hold a street procession later this month to mark the visit of a grand rabbi from New York State; the procession would have taken place after 22.00 and involved up to 1,000 followers. On Thursday, Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars said in an interview, “I don’t think this is the time to do night processions. We have to be prudent for now. Tensions can’t keep rising. I have to face my responsibilities”. Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars noted that the arrondissement is home to a high concentration of places of worship from a variety of religious denominations, and the moratorium applies to all of them. That means the freeze, which will remain in place until 1 June whilst the arrondissement reviews its policies, is having a spillover effect.
The procession at St Nicholas normally involves hundreds of parishioners outside the church after midnight between 14 and 15 April in a candlelit procession around the church that spills into the street. Members of the church say that no one in the neighbourhood has ever complained about the processions, which began in 1964. Fr George Lagodich, vice-rector of the church, said the conflict between Outremont and the Hasidic community “has nothing to do with us. It’s insanity. Our procession is peaceful and quiet. It’s not just a celebration; it’s an integral part of our service”.
Ms Cinq-Mars said she’s sorry the moratorium affected the church, but she insists that the arrondissement can’t apply the measure selectively. “We have to treat everyone equally. If we have a moratorium, we can’t do it for one group and not the other”. The Hasidic community isn’t happy about the move either. Mayer Feig, who speaks for the community, says members are weighing a legal challenge, saying, “You can’t stop people from celebrating their holidays and holding processions. We have rights and our rights are being violated”. He said it was regrettable that the Russian Orthodox Church was being “dragged into this”.
The conflict underscores wider tensions with Outremont’s Hasidic community, an insular group that accounts for a fifth to a quarter of the population of the district. Last year, residents voted in a referendum to reject the expansion of a Hasidic synagogue at the border with Montréal. To the mayor, however, a small group of residents exacerbate tension, as they scrutinise the Hasidic Jews’ behaviour, in the belief they flout municipal bylaws. She said that they painstakingly document and air their views on blogs and other forums, feeding public anger. “It’s putting oil on the fire”, Ms Cinq-Mars said. “I believe cohabitation is possible while respecting everyone. I’ve always believed in it”. The confrontation that led to this week’s moratorium involved independent Outremont Councillor Céline Forget, who’s been frequently involved in recording the movements of the Hasidic community. She says it’s to document transgressions to municipal rules over parking, noise, and other nuisances; the Hasidic community describes it as harassment.
The Globe and Mail
Here’s some background information on the dispute touching all of this off:
Pierre Lacerte rarely leaves his house without a sense of righteous indignation, and never without his point-and-shoot camera holstered on his belt. When he walks through his neighbourhood of Outremont in Montréal, he may take a picture, or seven, of garbage-strewn yards, illegal construction, parking infractions, oversized buses, unlicensed gatherings, and any other infraction allegedly committed by the area’s Hasidic Jewish community. The pictures are fodder for his blog, a mean-spirited take on his Hasidic neighbours and the politicians he says “are on all fours in front of the Hasidim”. Liberal politician Martin Cauchon becomes “Martin Kosher”; Montréal Mayor Gérald Tremblay is blasted for courting the Hasidic vote during the last election, or “electorah”. Lacerte also attends municipal council meetings with near-religious fervour out of a sense of “exasperation” with the Hasidim, who he believes are making Outremont unbearable for the goyim. He said recently from a croissanterie near his home, “I’m determined, not obsessed. They’re a small minority, and already it’s a mess. What’s it going to be like in 15 years when they have doubled in size?”
Lacerte’s diatribes are indicative of the mood in Outremont. The arrondissement of choice for Quebec’s cultural and political elite is synonymous with sidewalk cafés and quiet power. Yet, in recent years, it’s been the scene of a debate over how much leeway it should give to its religious minorities. Many residents think they know the answer… not much. Not any, actually. Alex Werzberger, a Hasidic leader frequently parodied on Lacerte’s site, said, “Some people just want to make life miserable for the Jews”. It’s been ugly as of late. In March, anonymous leaflets appeared on lampposts and parking meters decrying an “illegal synagogue” in neighbouring Mile End, and urging Outremont residents to call elected officials to protest (the building is used as a temporary meeting place for young Hasidic men, Werzberger says). Then, a couple of weeks ago, vandals broke into an Outremont synagogue and drew swastikas on its bimah, or pulpit. Meanwhile, Council meetings have become pitched battles between pro- and anti-Hasid camps. Recently, police removed Giselle Lafortune, a 74-year-old retired beautician and vocal critic of the Hasidim, from a meeting for repeated disruptions. Lafortune says police intervened after she called Hasidic spokesperson Meyer Feig a racist, but only after Feig insulted the upbringing of non-Hasidic children (Feig couldn’t be reached for comment). Outremont Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars said, “I don’t want it to be like this, but it’s becoming a place where one community is pitted against another”.
Tensions go back a few years. In the late 1990s, Hasidim challenged a bylaw preventing them from erecting an eruv, a series of strings hung around a neighbourhood allowing the observant to perform otherwise verboten functions on the Sabbath. The eruv, councillor Céline Forget said at the time, would prevent her from flying a kite outside her home (the bylaw was struck down). Werzberger said of his critics, “You see where they’re coming from”. He said that disputes over bylaws are a smokescreen for hatred of what amounts to a very visible minority. “They’re scared of what happens as we get bigger, and what’ll happen if we elect someone to municipal council”. Not so, Forget said. Mme Forget said that the battle over bylaws is important, if Outremont is to be Outremont and not what Lacerte called a “religious ghetto”. In 1999, she successfully lobbied the courts to close down an illegal synagogue; opening synagogues in residential areas, then, annexing surrounding buildings, is the ultimate goal of the Hasidim, she said. During the court proceedings, she was assaulted and her home vandalised.
It would have been difficult to fathom such rancour 50 years ago. Roughly 30 Hasidic families arrived from Europe after the Second World War. Attracted by its quiet streets and plentiful housing, they settled in and around Outremont, building synagogues and, much like their French Catholic brethren, reproducing copiously. Outremont practised reasonable accommodations well before it became a catchphrase… according to Cinq-Mars, there has been an unwritten rule for 40 years that says snow removal is “avoided” on certain streets on the Jewish Sabbath. However, as Quebec society became more secular and less fecund, the Hasidic community continued to grow, and to practise a brand of Judaism emphasising piety, prayer, and a certain detachment from non-Hasidim… echoes of the fight over the niqab, the Islamic veil that’s Québec’s perceived threat du jour. The friction was only a matter of time and demographic… today, Hasidim represent 20 to 25 per cent of Outremont’s population of 97,000. For some, their garb… black coats, long dresses, and payos braids… is as obvious as their downturned eyes as they walk the streets. Forget said, “They want to control the environment. That’s why they live so close together. They think when they control a street they can apply their own rules”.
Not every Outremonter agrees. Kaitlin Jones lives down the street from Lacerte. Sure, her neighbours occasionally hiss at her bare flesh and copious tattoos, saying, “You get over it. I mean, Outremont’s the safest neighbourhood I’ve ever lived in. The double parking? The loud synagogues? It’s part of living in Montréal. You’re going to inconvenience someone at some point”.
Well, if you’re interested to read the real story about the situation in Outremont, visit my website. At least, you’ll have another version other than what Mr Patriquin wrote, after he interviewed me for two hours. You’ll realise that the major issue is about the permissiveness of local and provincial politicians towards fundamentalist leaders that don’t have any respect for democracy. With the complicity (or submissiveness) of our own politicians, their sect can live quietly above the law.
One should note that oca.org was silent on this matter, but the Centre picked up on it. If there’s publicity on this, the local pooh-bahs WILL bend their rules. E-mail the Arrondissement of Outremont… here’s a link to do it (scroll down the page to see the contact form). Raise a civilised ruckus and raise some holy hell (but not in a bezkulturny way)! The squeaky wheel does get the grease, but be good to them, too. Make the point that the procession has gone on for over half a century without disrupting community life, St Nicholas parish has been a good neighbour, doing its best to fit into the surrounding Francophone environment, quite unlike the belligerent and clannish Hasids (do make the point that the late Metropolitan Vitaly Ustinov chose to live in Outremont and considered French his main Western language, not English).
The Centre raised its voice to protest this action in Canada, whilst the OCA, which claims to the territorial Church for the Americas, was silent as a fish. Indeed, that tells one who’s naughty and who’s nice, doesn’t it? Once again, the OCA proves that it has NO RIGHT WHATSOEVER to any claim to existence, let alone autocephaly or autonomy. It’s time to put down this unthrifty beast and have united Russian Orthodox Metropolias under the Mother Church in Alaska, Canada, the USA, and Latin America. There’s simply nothing else to say on the matter…
Oh, yes, do note how the Hasids use the unsubtle tactic of smearing their opponents as “Anti-Semitic”… that’s reprehensible and beneath the salt… why do pols fall for such vituperative and manipulative shit?