MONTREAL (JTA) – Decades-old tensions in a Montreal borough between Chasidic Jews and their neighbours flared again after some from the latter group donned yellow badges reminiscent of those Jews were forced to wear during the Nazi era.
The eight protesters at an Outremont Borough Council meeting on Monday, led by Ginette Chartre, said the rectangular badges signified yellow Chasidic-run school buses for children that the residents complain regularly impede traffic flow on their streets.
But the symbolism of yellow badges pinned to clothing did not go unnoticed by outraged Jewish residents and groups.
“The person who devised such a protest either has no knowledge of history whatsoever, or if they understood, they would surely have realized it was a horrendous way to express one’s opinion,” B’nai Brith Canada’s Steven Slimovitch said.
Rabbi Reuben Poupko of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said:“Some residents of the borough seem to be determined to persistently sow discord in Outremont even though in recent months significant progress has been made in terms of good-neighbourly relations and social harmony.”
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante also weighed in on the bus dispute, saying in a statement, “I find it unacceptable to launch a political action against children.”
Chartre, however, seemed unbowed by the protests, asking, “Should we change the colour of school buses now because it reminds (Jews) of their past?”
About one-quarter of the Outremont borough’s 25,000 residents is Chasidic, including one of its four councillors, Mindy Pollak.
Over the years the two communities have had occasional but regular disputes over issues ranging from the zoning and legality of Chasidic synagogues to Jewish holiday parking.