Outremont's Hasidic Jews brace for Purim conflict

Montreal's Hasidic Jewish community is preparing for this Saturday's Purim, a holiday that caused conflict among neigbours in Outremont last year.
As Montreal's Hasidic Jewish community prepares for Purim, some are concerned over possible conflicts with neighbours. (CBC)

Montreal’s Hasidic Jewish community is preparing for this Saturday’s Purim, a Jewish holiday that caused conflict among neighbours in Outremont last year.

To celebrate the holiday, Orthodox Jewish children in Montreal go door-to-door in costume singing and collecting money for their schools and for the poor.

Minibuses are normally used to shuttle the kids around the neighbourhood, even though there is a borough bylaw banning double-axle vehicles on residential streets.

The bylaw was put in place in 2003 to ban intercity coach buses from traveling through the borough's streets.

A controversy was caused last year when borough councillor Céline Forget and a group of Purim revelers got into an argument for which the police were called.

"She called public security, she called the police, she stood in the middle of street and tried to make it into a scene, and people got angry," said Mindy Pollak, a co-founder of the group the Friends of Hutchison and a member of Montreal’s Hasidic Jewish community.

This year, the community appealed to the borough council seeking an exemption to the bylaw banning buses, but their request was denied after some residents complained at a council meeting, Pollak said.

The motion at that meeting asking for an exemption also failed to get a seconder.

"It was shocking to see how much opposition there was to it," she said.

Pollak said community members are trying to make alternative transportation arrangements for this weekend.

Borough mayor and councillor Marie Cinq-Mars declined to comment.

Purim begins Saturday, Feb. 23.