Members of at least eight Canadian synagogues, four in Toronto, one in Kingston, one in Hamilton and two in Montreal, are in shock after receiving anti-Semitic hate mail on Monday.
According to B’nai Brith Canada, the Beth Ora and Shaare Zedek synagogues in Montreal, the Adath Israel, Beth Tzedec, Temple Har Zion and Beth Tikvah congregations in Toronto, the Beth Israel Congregation in Kingston, Ont., and the Temple Anshe Sholom synagogue in Hamilton all received a letter in an unmarked white envelope they said resembled Nazi propaganda.
The letter contained the phrase “Jewry Must Perish” with a bleeding Star of David and a swastika at the centre.
“At this holy time for Jews and Christians alike, we are reminded that we are members of one community, striving for the preservation of truth and freedom,” said Rabbi Alan W. Bright of Shaare Zedek in a media release.
“Vile acts of this nature should never divide us. Rather, they should serve to remind us that we be steadfast in our convictions, consistent in our commitment and courageous in our endeavours to make Canada and the world a better place in which to live.”
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Police in all four cities have confirmed they were investigating the letters.
Officers are “absolutely” treating the incidents as hate crimes, said Staff Sgt. Frank Partridge of 32 Division in north Toronto, where one of the targeted synagogues is located.
“This is something that’s happening in real time – today, yesterday – it’s happening in (other cities) so there’s a linkage there,” Partridge said.
“Starting tomorrow, I’m having my officers go out and pay special attention to the synagogues and other Jewish facilities… You’ve got to be proactive about this.”
“Sadly, we’ve seen the swastika make something of a comeback this year, defacing the walls of high schools, university campuses, and public property,” B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn said. “Today, it is more imperative than ever that we condemn this symbol of racism and hatred.
“There’s no place for the swastika in civil society.”
If found, Mostyn said he would like the person or persons responsible to face charges.
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Numbers released by Statistics Canada in November found hate crimes against Jewish people saw spiked last year, from 178 incidents reported to police in 2015 to 221 reported in 2016. These increases were recorded mainly in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba.
—With files from The Canadian press and a file from Monique Scotti