City of Quebec Expropriates Site Where Jewish Community is Building Synagogue

The City of Quebec today served notice that it planned to expropriate a site on which a synagogue is being erected by the Jewish community. The notice, returnable within ten days in Superior Court, stated that the site was needed for an extension to Lockwell Park.

“The action is a most flagrant assault on freedom of worship and the civic right to erect a house of worship for the citizens of Jewish faith,” M. Caiserman, general secretary of the Canadian Jewish Congress, declared. “Never before in the history of our country has this right been so openly or so unashamedly suppressed or challenged.”

City Attorney Benoit Pelletier, in explaining the action of the municipality, said that a few weeks ago the city council adopted a motion to purchase the site for $25,000, but representatives of the Jewish community said that they could only accept the offer if another site of their choice was provided.

The site was acquired in 1941. Shortly after its purchase, the Quebec city council, acting under pressure from anti-Jewish elements, passed a regulation forbidding the building of houses of worship in that section of the city. The regulation was tested in court and the case was dismissed. The Jewish community, composed of 109 Jewish families, went ahead with its project and foundation work is now near completion. “We are ready to contest the notice of expropriation to the end,” S. Lazarovitz, attorney for the Jewish congregation, stated after the notice was served.

ANTI-SEMITES BENT ON PREVENTING JEWS FROM BUILDING HOUSE OF WORSHIP

The issue goes back to 1932 when the Jewish community of Quebec decided to build a synagogue in the section of the city where most of the Jews reside. A lot was then acquired for this purpose. The French Catholic population, however, objected to having a synagogue in the neighborhood. The city council then adopted an ordinance prohibiting the building of non-residential edifices in that section of the city, thus preventing the Jews from erecting the synagogue.

The Jewish community then sold the land and acquired another site after securing permission from the town planning commission to build a synagogue there. Members of a neighboring Catholic church, however, started a movement to bar the Jews from building their synagogue on the new site and submitted a petition with 10,000 signatures to the city council.

The issue became one of the major controversies in the city with Protestants siding with the Jews. The Jewish community, realizing that anti-Semitic elements were seeking to exploit the situation, decided to postpone building the synagogue until a time when it could not be utilized by political propagandists. In 1942, when it was believed that the reactionary elements in the city had given up their anti-Jewish and Fascist activities, at least for the duration of the war, the Jews decided to start construction work on the site. Immediately, the city council passed an ordinance prohibiting the erection of houses of worship in the neighborhood. Later the city council approached the Jews and offered to buy the land and use it as an extension to Lockwell Park. The offer was rejected when the municipality refused to give assurances that another site suitable for a synagogue would be provided.

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