Yellow rectangular badges used to protest congestion caused by yeshivah school buses in a Montreal neighborhood sparked controversy over their resemblance to the stars of the same color used by Nazis to tag Jews during the Holocaust.
The upscale borough of Outremont has been the scene of several standoffs between the area’s rapidly growing Orthodox community and some vocal citizens in the general population who have championed attempts to block its expansion. The issue of traffic caused by the large number of school buses in the neighborhood has been a subject of discussion and tension over the past decade. However, the small group that attended a council meeting Monday night wearing the badges and speaking in an accusatory manner about the effects of the buses was deemed distasteful by many.
Mayer Feig, an activist on behalf of Outremont’s Orthodox community, told Hamodia that he felt the move was a provocative attempt to gain attention.
“I can’t say that I know that [an imitation of the stars used by the Nazis] was their intention, but if I would have to guess, it certainly seems that’s what they had in mind,” he said.
Those who wore the symbols denied that they were intended to hearken back to Holocaust imagery.
“If they are yellow it’s not to bring up anything in history,” a woman bearing the badge at the meeting told the council. “It’s to state that in order to have a symbol for a bus we can’t have a rose square, or black or beige. Buses are yellow. At a certain point you have to move beyond the past if you want to move forward.”
The group of some eight people who wore the badges, Mr. Feig said, are part of a small group who have consistently agitated against the Orthodox community and have become more militant after an ally of theirs, Celine Forget (pronounced forjette) lost her seat on the council in elections last November.
“It’s the same group that comes every month and complains and blames all of Outremont’s problems on the Jews. Since Forget lost they are very bitter and are trying whatever they can,” Mr. Feig said.
He admitted that the buses used by the community do cause congestion, and that several efforts have been made to minimize the number of stops and vehicles in use, but that options to address the issue are limited.
“It’s frustrating for us, too; traffic affects everyone the same way,” he said. “The issue was reviewed by the borough and changes were made, but there are a lot of kids who need a way to get to school, and there’s only so much to do. It’s cold here in the winter, and to have more of them walk or to have stops further away is not always practical. This [latest protest over busing] is nothing more than another veiled attempt to stir hate against the community.”