Three more synagogues in Montreal vandalized

| October 8, 2009

MONTREAL – In the wake of a pre-Rosh Hashanah act of vandalism at Congregation Petah Tikvah in the Montreal suburb of St. Laurent, in which stained glass windows valued at $30,000 were destroyed, three more synagogues in the community of Côte Saint-Luc had rocks thrown through their windows.
B’nai Brith Canada – Quebec Region has received a number of recent reports targeting synagogues in the Montreal area. Locations near Jewish institutions have been defaced with ugly graffiti, including spray-painted swastikas in very recent weeks. The latest rash of broken windows is currently under investigation by police experts.

“While there is no immediate evidence that these separate incidents are directly connected at this time, the increase in activity and attacks must be responded to,” B’nai Brith Canada – Quebec Region director Sharon Bitensky said in an alert. “We urge all Jewish community organizations to take all due precautions to best ensure the safety and well being of their patrons and members.”

Moshe Ben Shach, director of operations for Federation CJA, also sent a notice to all synagogues and Jewish institutions. He noted that in all three of the most recent incidents “there was no further damage or visible attempt to enter the institutions. The Montreal police were notified and site evidence, including video footage, was collected and secured. The police have assured us that the investigation of these incidents will be pursued promptly.”

The three synagogues affected were Congregation Beth Rambam, Congregation Sepharade Or Hahayim and Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation.

In each case the rocks were found and handed over to police as evidence.

Bitensky has been in touch with Police Station 9 in Côte Saint-Luc.

“They were very helpful and collaborative and responded immediately to our worries,” she said. “After expressing our strong concern, they agreed to increase their vigilance during the weekend and especially during Yom Kippur. We have been coordinating efforts with the police and the targeted synagogues to gather as much information as possible and to try to find the perpetrators of such despicable acts. The number of incidents in Côte-Saint-Luc, Hampstead and other parts of the West End have been increasing these last couple of months. This is a disturbing trend that needs to be addressed immediately.”

In the case of Petah Tikvah, Bitensky says there has not been much progress.
“With no witnesses, the investigation is not moving as we would want it to,” she said.
Rabbi Reuben J. Poupko, spiritual leader of Beth Israel Beth Aaron, was naturally alarmed by the incidents.

“These are cowards who skulk around under the cover of darkness to throw stones at buildings,” he said. “They are insignificant people who unfortunately can do significant damage.”

Police Station 9 Commander Sylvain Bissonnette is relieved that these incidents did not include breaking and entering. “The best allies of the police are the cooperation of the community and cameras,” he said.

Moïse Moghrabi, Quebec chair of the League for Human Rights, finds the recent rash of antisemitic incidents disturbing and laments a lack of any public outcry or official public condemnation from elected officials.

“The number of these acts in such a short period, their frequency and their seriousness leave no doubt that these are calculated attempts to terrorize the Montreal Jewish community,” he said. “The municipal, provincial and federal authorities should make it a priority at this time to increase the sense of safety in our community before the situation degenerates even further.

“To their credit, the local police have been taking these crimes very seriously and have assigned experts to investigate them as well as increased the level of their presence around various Jewish institutions. B’nai Brith has been in constant contact with them to monitor the situation and assist in their investigations in order to identify and arrest the perpetrators. All Jewish community organizations must increase their vigilance and take all necessary precautions to increase security measures to insure the safety of their members. To that end we hope that the federal government will extend the funding that was made available under the Security Infrastructure Pilot Program to combat these hate-motivated crimes.”

 

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Category: Synagogue/Jewish Security

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