A Hasidic couple who married Tuesday night invited townspeople in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., to their celebration as a goodwill gesture to ease tensions in the community.
Hana Sellem and Moshe Barouk invited hundreds of residents from the town in the Laurentian Mountains to their ultra-Orthodox Jewish wedding, normally a private event for family and friends.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to share things that are really important, really magnificent … with our neighbours,” 26-year-old Sellem said before her wedding, after which she took on her husband’s last name.
The immigrant from France, now an educator and vice-principal at Yeshiva Beis Moshe Chaim, a Jewish teacher’s college in Ste-Agathe, came up with the idea to invite residents in the resort town to her wedding to provide a window on her Chabad-Lubavitch tradition.
A series of anti-Semitic events in Ste-Agathe this summer — from vandalism to an assault on Montreal student Mendy Haouzi — cast a chill on the mountainside town.
Orthodox Jewish families have maintained a presence alongside their Roman Catholic neighbours for more than a century in Ste-Agathe, but the two communities don’t mix much, deputy town manager Benoît Fugère said.
“The Orthodox Jewish community in particular is very discreet in respect to ours,” he said Tuesday. “It means that we have contact with them, but we don’t know each other.”
The town has downplayed the anti-Semitic incidents as bad pranks authored by an isolated group of young people.
But they had an impact, Rabbi Emanuel Carlebach said.
“We’re one town. In many ways, we’re like a family here. And so if there are those who are attacking a minority, it’s important for the entire town to make these few individuals realize that it’s an attack on the entire town,” he said.
‘We’re ready to share’
Sharing the couple’s wedding with everyone is a step to fostering better relations, local resident Pamela Sloan said.
“It does open other people’s eyes to realize that, just because you’re of another culture, or of another religion or language, it means that we can still get along on this beautiful occasion,” she said. “Hopefully, it will continue.”
“It’s certainly better to underline the positive, to show that we’re ready to share,” said Ruth Roumani, Sellem’s mother, who travelled from France. “I think it’s a good thing, because we have more in common with each other than we believe.”
The couple had wedding guides printed in French and English explaining their nuptial rituals.
The evening wedding was held at Place Lagny, on the shores of Lac des Sables.
Friends and family wearing traditional black garb surrounded the chuppah, the ceremonial canopy used at Jewish weddings, while town guests sat further away.
André Gauthier said he accepted the wedding invitation because he’s curious about his Jewish neighbours.
“We once went to the opening of the synagogue years ago here,” he said. “Their way of living, of practising, I think it’s good if everybody keeps together.”
The newlyweds plan to move to Florida, Barouk’s home.