Yes Madame Mayor we know what it means to be “a good citizen”

Lire cet article en français "Oui Madame la mairesse, nous savons ce qu’être « un bon citoyen » signifie"

In midst of their Purim celebrations, Hassidim mobilize to help a stranger who's car stalled in middle of the St. Viatuer/Hutchison intersection. Photo credit:  Pascal Dumont  -  pascaldumont.ca

In midst of their Purim celebrations, Hassidim mobilize to help a stranger who's car stalled in middle of the St. Viatuer/Hutchison intersection. Photo credit: Pascal Dumont - pascaldumont.ca

An open letter to Outremont’s Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars.

Dear Mayor Cinq-Mars,

At a recent borough council meeting (March 4, 2013), you suggested we reflect on what it means to be “a good citizen”, hoping that this would lead to a lessening of tensions in Outremont between the Hassidic community and their neighbors.

While you didn’t reveal what you consider to be a “bon citoyen”, it was fairly obvious the that Hassidic Jewish community of Outremont may not be the “good citizens” you envision. If that question was meant for everybody (as you claim in your comment on this article), you would have addressed each and every speaker with that refrain, not just the Hassidim and their supporters.

Because it seems like you might not be aware of how we participate in the community at large, I would like to relate two incidents that recently took place here in Outremont. These two seemingly minor incidents go a long way to reveal the underlying character of our community – your Hassidic Jewish constituents – showing that we are a people who are always willing to go out of their way to help their fellow neighbors.

Incident 1: Helping a lost senior

A few weeks ago on a Saturday morning, my wife was walking down Champagneur near Bernard when she saw a frail elderly woman looking disoriented and lost. Worried, my wife asked her if she was alright, but she answered “je suis perdu.” She was wearing a tag from the Manoir Outremont but she said she couldn’t find the door to get back in.

My wife ran to the main door of the Manoir to summon help but there was a note saying it was out order and that the fire escape should be used. By now the woman, who was not wearing a coat, was starting to shiver and looked like she couldn’t stand on her feet anymore. My wife calmed her down and helped her sit down on the steps.

My wife then ran up 4 flights of the fire escape stairs and banged on the door of the Manoir, but no answer. She then went down to the first floor and knocked on the ReMax office where a Quebeciose woman listened to the story but then refused to help, saying that it’s not her problem and closed the door. By now my wife was desperate, she had no cellphone to call 911 and she couldn’t leave the woman alone. Another Hassidic man passed by and he saw what was happening. He told my wife to stay with the lady while he went to summon help. Finally he found someone to call the Manoir. The staff quickly came down and picked up the lady.

Incident 2: Stopping celebrations to help disabled vehicle

In midst of their Purim celebrations, Hassidim mobilize to help a stranger who's car stalled in middle of the St. Viatuer/Hutchison intersection. Photo credit:  Pascal Dumont, pascaldumont.ca

In midst of their Purim celebrations, Hassidim mobilize to help a stranger who’s car stalled in middle of the St. Viatuer/Hutchison intersection. Photo credit: Pascal Dumont pascaldumont.ca

The L’Express d’Outremont published (March 13, 2013) this photo of hassidim pushing a car this past Purim holiday, but it failed to give any context to what was going on in that picture.

It might surprise people to know that the owner of this car being pushed is not a member of the Jewish community. His car got stuck in the middle of the Hutchison & St. Viateur intersection during the busy Purim holiday. Although the Hassidic community was busy delivering food and visiting friends and family, a group of men stopped to push the vehicle out of the intersection. During this time some Quebecois walked by and made snide remarks, one even took pictures, assuming that the car belonged to a Hassidic person and was blocking the street “as usual.”

Madame Mayor, interactions like these are what we consider to be a “good citizens”.

Of course there are neighbourly issues that arise when you have two different communities and cultures living side by side. But these issues cannot be resolved by creating undemocratic by-laws and zoning restriction that stifle a community – as the Outremont borough council has sadly done over the past decade. They can only be dealt with properly thru mutual respect and open dialogue.

Sincerely,

A proud Outremont resident,

Cheskie Weiss



2 comments (1 comments in English, 1 comments in French)

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  1. Sarah B
    July 11, 2014

    I really enjoy reading your blog. I think it’s a great initiative as it allows you to break down a lot of the misconceptions people may have about the Hasidic community. It’s too bad people render judgment when they do not know or understand something. I’m sorry to hear some people in your area are giving you a hard time.