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Two men arrested in connection to anti-Semitic graffiti at Hamilton synagogue

Hamilton Police's hate crime unit is investigating anti-Semitic graffiti that was left outside of the Beth Jacob Synagogue on Friday night.
Hamilton Police's hate crime unit is investigating anti-Semitic graffiti that was left outside of the Beth Jacob Synagogue on Friday night. Beth Jacob Synagogue on Facebook

Hamilton police say they have two 19-year-old Hamilton men in custody, believed to be a part of a hate biased graffiti incident at the Beth Jacob Synagogue on Saturday.

Detectives from the Hate Crime Unit say the two men were arrested over a two day period – Wednesday and Thursday – and have been charged with mischief under $5,000.

The two are scheduled to appear in court in Hamilton Nov. 5 and 6.

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“We have to unpack this notion of we are the highest hate crime community in the country,” Mayor Fred Eisenberger said during a council meeting on Thursday after hearing about the arrests.

“It doesn’t clearly identify the true picture of what’s going on when we’ve had a service that’s been encouraging hate crime reporting for quite some time now. That success is for some reason or another has come back to bite us in some measure or another.”

On Saturday police say they responded to a complaint about anti-Semitic graffiti painted around a synagogue, including on the sidewalk of Aberdeen Avenue.

READ MORE: Police investigating anti-Semitic graffiti outside Hamilton synagogue

The text and drawings were written in chalk on the pavement at the entrance to the synagogue with one displaying the word “Jews”, crossed out within a circle, while another was a swastika.

The incident came immediately after a conference to address hate in Hamilton was held at the McMaster Innovation Park on Friday and right before Saturday’s Gandhi Peace Festival in front of Hamilton City Hall.

READ MORE: Hamilton to host anti-racism conference, thanks to federal funds

Police obtained surveillance camera footage from the synagogue which investigators say showed four males between the ages of 16 and 18 leaving the graffiti at approximately 10:20 p.m.

A report on hate crimes and hate-bias incidents reported to Hamilton Police in 2018 found that the number of incidents targeting the Jewish community rose by 25 per cent over 2017.

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The city will be holding an “in-person public engagement event” at the end of the month to hear from residents about their lived experiences of racism. The results of the Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre survey will also be presented during the event, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the David Braley Health Sciences Centre on Oct. 29.

–With files from Lisa Polewski

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