Synagogue vandalism a hate crime: police

| March 23, 2010

A forced entry into an Outremont synagogue by at least one vandal who etched swastikas inside with a black marker in all likelihood took place between 1:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. Saturday, Hersh Ber Hirsch, the synagogue's administrator, said yesterday.

The act is being probed by Montreal police as an anti-Semitic hate crime.

One suspect, or possibly two, broke into the Ahavath Israel d'Chasidei Viznitz synagogue, on the corner of Van Horne and Durocher Aves., through a rear window, Constable Raphaël Bergeron said.

Two swastikas were marked on what is known as the bima, the equivalent of the pulpit.

The house of worship is used by more than 100 members of the ultra-conservative Judaic movement. It is located in the heart of Montreal's Hassidic community.

The neighbourhood hosts about a dozen Hassidic congregations, said Mayer Feig, executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Council for Community Relations of Montreal.

Congregants who began arriving about 6 a.m. for a 9:30 a.m. Sabbath service also discovered prayer books and prayer shawls had been scattered about, Hirsch said.

"A curtain around the Torah had been moved," he added. "But the Torah was safe – it was in a safe."

The police investigation is ongoing, Bergeron said.

He said he could not provide further details, such as any description of the suspect or suspects.

"There is a steady state of angst within the Hassidic community in Outremont because of certain fellow citizens in Outremont who are opposed to the Hassidim," said Adam Atlas, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress. The tensions are most frequently apparent at borough council meetings, he added.

"Generally," Hirsch said, "we have very good relations with our neighbours, although there is a small group that has a problem with identity issues."

A synagogue window facing Van Horne was broken about eight weeks ago, he added, an incident he reported to police.

Whoever committed the Sabbath act "shows they have hatred," Hirsch said. "We are a quiet religious community."

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Category: Synagogue/Jewish Security

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