Vancouver’s Jewish community is reacting with shock and horror to the massacre in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday morning.
Many observant Jews were marking Shabbat on Saturday, tuned out of their TVs and smart phones, and thus were only learning the horrific news early Saturday evening said Ezra Shanken, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.
“We want them to know that there are no credible threats to this community, but we continue to be vigilant and our hearts and our prayers and our love goes out to all of our extended family in Pittsburgh who are suffering just incredible loss right now,” he told Global News.
Shanken said the region’s Jewish community has been working with the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) and RCMP for years to ensure security at synagogues, and that protocols were put into place Saturday morning.
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“That went into action this morning when we heard what had happened, even though we know from our assessment that the threat in Canada is quite low right now,” Shanken said. “But we still wanted to respond, and we responded very swiftly to ensure that people who were practicing their faith were protected.”
Vancouver police said they had been in contact with the Jewish Federation and were liaising with the community.
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC), a Canadian Jewish human rights foundation, also released a statement saying Vancouver police chief Adam Palmer said patrols around Jewish facilities were instituted “right away.”
The latest hate crime data from Statistics Canada reports a 24 per cent increase in police-reported hate crimes against Jewish people in 2016.
It also found that the Jewish community, representing one per cent of Canada’s population, was the group most frequently targeted by hate crimes in the country.
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Shanken said despite the fact he believes Jewish places of worship are secure, he remains concerned about the growing prevalence of anti-Semitism — adding he believes it is a part of a broader trend.
“I’m concerned all the time, not just about vile acts of anti-Semitism like what we saw in Pittsburgh, but the continued increase in hate that’s going on that we’ve been monitoring both here and around the world,” Shanken said. “This isn’t just about Jews.”
— With files from Eric Stober