Montreal Jews fear ‘orchestrated campaign’ of hate

MONTREAL – Montreal’s Jewish community fears it is being targeted in an orchestrated campaign of hatred.

Three synagogues, a Jewish school and a daycare had their windows smashed with rocks over the weekend. Meanwhile, controversy continued to rage over a local shoe store that is being boycotted by some Montrealers because it sells shoes made in Israel.

B’nai Brith’s local chapter issued a press release Monday following the attacks in the city’s west end.

"Following what appears to be an orchestrated campaign of anti-Semitic attacks, there is particular concern about the targeting of a school and daycare," the group said.

Police suspect the attacks are related. They have no eyewitnesses but are hoping surveillance video might offer some clues.

No arrests have been made.

The attacks brought condemnation Monday from Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

"The attacks . . . represent a series of hateful and systematic acts not just on institutions but on a religious community itself," Ignatieff said in a statement.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Jewish communities across Canada that once again have been made to feel that their congregations and the children in their schools have cause to fear for their safety."

Ignatieff said government efforts to help provide security for such institutions haven’t gone far enough. One of his MPs, Irwin Cotler, noted that Jan. 17 was Raoul Wallenberg Day and he suggested people should honour the late humanitarian by standing up against this "clear anti-Semitic hate crime."

The Quebec Jewish Congress said it met with police and felt reassured that authorities were taking the incidents seriously.

"This violence has sparked an emotional reaction in the Jewish community," said the group’s president, Adam Atlas.

"Attacking places of worship and teaching is not only completely disgraceful, but it threatens our society’s values of liberty and tolerance."

B’nai Brith urged a broader look at anti-Semitic incidents in the city.

It says it’s now time to review any past vandalism at Jewish institutions that may have been written off as isolated incidents; the organization says it looks like the community is being targeted.

As a result, it hopes incidents like past spraypainting of swastikas and other acts of vandalism are treated as part of a series of hate crimes.

The weekend attacks came at the same time as some Montrealers, including Liberal MP Marlene Jennings, headed out to buy shoes in support of a store that sells footwear made in Israel.

The store is being boycotted by other Montrealers for selling the Israeli shoes – and the boycott has received support from the leader of a small left-wing party with one seat in the Quebec legislature.

B’nai Brith said this weekend’s attacks also brought back "painful memories" of the firebombing of the city’s United Talmud Torah School.

The school was torched just before Passover in 2004.

Local men Sleiman El-Merhebi and Simon Zogheib were charged in the case, which made international headlines and drew donations to help rebuild the school’s library.


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