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Suspect throws rocks, smashes Thornhill synagogue’s front doors in broad daylight

Click to play video 'Suspect throws rocks through Thornhill synagogue’s front doors' Suspect throws rocks through Thornhill synagogue’s front doors
Rabbi Mendel Kaplan of Chabad Flamingo Synagogue posted two videos to Facebook that appears to show a suspect throwing a rock through the glass front doors on two separate occasions early Wednesday morning – Mar 21, 2018

The front doors of a synagogue in Thornhill were smashed by a rock in broad daylight Wednesday morning.

B’nai Brith Canada said they were contacted by Rabbi Mendel Kaplan of Chabad Flamingo Synagogue, who said around 9:40 a.m., surveillance video caught a suspect throwing a rock through the glass doors on two separate occasions.

“Our cameras show a man walking by our Shul, stopping multiple times looking for rocks — and then running back twice to hatefully smash the glass doors,” Kaplan posted on his Facebook.

READ MORE: Hate crimes against Muslims are down as overall number of hate crimes increases

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Later in the day, he posted two surveillance videos that clearly show a man throwing a rock at the doors, fleeing the scene and returning shortly after to throw another rock, this time much closer to the entrance.

Kaplan said he contacted York Regional Police and that their response has been “marvelous.”

“We were shocked, horrified and extremely, extremely distraught by the events of this morning,” Kaplan told reporters Wednesday. “If you watch the video, you can see there is clear premeditation. The person thinks and rethinks, and the way he tosses the stone, the malice and the hatred are really, really obvious.”

Police told Global News on Wednesday the incident was being investigated as vandalism, but is now considered a “hate-motivated” crime.

The suspect wanted in the case is described as a male, between 20 and 30 years of age, 5’8″ to 5’10” tall and with a medium build.

He was last seen wearing a dark grey or black North Face-style winter coat with fur-trimmed hood, black hooded-sweatshirt with the hood up, grey jeans and black Nike sneakers with the ‘swoosh’ on the toe area.

B’nai Brith Canada said in a statement released on Wednesday that they were “appalled” to learn about what they are calling anti-Semitic vandalism.

“It is both despicable and lamentable that someone would feel the need to resort to such vile behaviour,” said Michael Mostyn, chief executive officer of B’nai Brith Canada.

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“We trust that police will investigate this matter seriously.”

Chabad Flamingo Synagogue. Jeremy Cohn/Global News
Chabad Flamingo Synagogue. Jeremy Cohn/Global News

Kaplan said he doesn’t just see this as an attack on the synagogue.

“I see it as an attack on the Jewish community, and ultimately, an attack on all decent citizens and decent Canadians.

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“This is the ugliest and most grotesque form of hatred and racism being directed toward a visible minority group.”

The incident comes three months after a number of synagogues across Ontario were targets of anti-Semitic hate mail.

READ MORE: Anti-Semitic hate mail targets synagogues in Toronto, Kingston, Hamilton and Montreal

In late December, B’nai Brith Canada said 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.

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At the time, police in all four cities confirmed they were investigating the letters.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 1-866-876-5423 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

— With files from David Shum and Jeremy Cohn

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