Jewish community claims it is being pushed out of Montreal neighborhood

© Amir Cohen
The Hassidic Jewish community of Montreal said a proposal to ban religious gathering places on two of the city’s busiest commercial streets is an attempt to push hundreds of families out of the “trendy” neighborhood.

Nine months after the bill was originally proposed to introduce zoning charges in the Outremont area, tensions continue to run high because of ongoing gentrification, according to the Star.

Several members of the Jewish community also stormed out of a public meeting last week, which had been arranged to address the regulation changes.

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Members of the Jewish community had aspired to open businesses catering to their culture such as a ritual bath, or mikvah, directly across from upmarket bars and restaurants, causing an uproar with the city’s council.

Abraham Eksten, a prominent member of the Hassidic community, has been leading a campaign opposing the regulatory change, which will ban religious buildings in the Montreal borough.

“Basically, it will pit neighbors against neighbors,” he told the news site. “It will mean a very heated political campaign where everyone will be forced to choose between hurting one neighbor and hurting another neighbor.”

“It’s something we’re certainly not excited about,” he added.

An online petition has also been launched calling on the proposal to be blocked in what the petition's author describes as "Outremont's arbitrary attitude towards human rights and freedoms."

The borough’s mayor Marie Cinq-Mars defended the proposal for zoning charges, claiming that they are necessary to support retail businesses in the area.

“When you have an empty parking lot followed by a daycare, then two houses, a store, then a place of worship, it doesn’t make for a very appealing commercial artery,” Cinq-Mars said in an interview.

Supporters of the zoning charges have said that places of worship are often exempt from property taxes that would normally be paid by a regular business, depriving the area of an important source of revenue, the Star reports.

Outremont’s Hassidic community is made up of some 800 Jewish families who have been part of the area since European immigrants began settling there after World War II.