Outremont decides not to change bylaw on sukkahs
The borough of Outremont has decided not to go ahead with a proposed change to a bylaw on sukkahs.
A sukkah is a temporary shelter that some Jews erect on their properties to observe the holiday of Sukkot. The festival of Sukkot commemorates the period when Israelites lived in the desert for 40 years in temporary huts.
The current bylaw in Outremont allows for sukkahs to be up for a total of 15 days.
Last fall, there was a proposal to extend that timeframe to make it easier for borough administrators to apply the bylaw, but amendments instead would have only permitted Sukkahs to be erected for three days before and after the week-long festival – shorter than the current permitted timeframe.
This drew a lot of criticism from many who said it would be impractical and restrictive to Jews in the community.
Sharon Freedman, a Cote-St-Luc citizen who came to the meeting, was among those worried about the rigid guidelines on sukkahs.
“There doesn’t seem to be any restrictions on any other religion when their decorations can go up and can go down.”
Projet Montreal councillor Mindy Pollak agreed that the new modifications were not reasonable.
“The proposal, as it was three working days before and three working days after, was not acceptable. It went against the wishes of a large number of people, a clear majority of people who took the trouble to express themselves on the matter.”
Pollak said she wants to see better cohabitation between the citizens of Outremont. She also hopes the borough administration will listen to concerns, but “Progress is slow, it’s going to take time to change things here.”
The bylaw’s modification never went through. On Monday night during a council meeting, mayor Marie Cinq-Mars said they would return to the original wording and keep it at 15 days. She told concerned citizens that she wants people to “put down their differences.”
She explained there were very few complaints from citizens against sukkahs and thought that taking off the proposed changes from the meeting’s agenda was the solution.
“We should go back as before. We have a bylaw here. Everyone seemed to be happy with it, so why change it?
However, lawyer Steven Slimovitch doesn’t think there should be any bylaw at all.
“What’s really, really troubling about all this is that this is the first time that I can remember that a bylaw is specifically enacted to deal with one cultural community. That’s wrong.”
He thinks if Outremont is going to make a rule, it should be for everyone and not single out Jewish people.