British Columbia’s Jewish community rallies in wake of anti-Semitic New York knife attack

Click to play video: 'B.C. Jewish community stands strong in wake of Monsey, N.Y. stabbings' B.C. Jewish community stands strong in wake of Monsey, N.Y. stabbings
WATCH: Although shaken, Jewish Vancouverites say Canada is a safe space for religious diversity in the aftermath of the weekend stabbings at a rabbi's home in Monsey, N.Y. and a string of other anti-Semitic attacks in New York. Aaron McArthur reports – Dec 30, 2019

British Colulmbia’s Jewish community is standing strong in the wake of a horrific knife attack at the home of a New York rabbi during Hanukkah Saturday night.

Five people were injured in the stabbings, which took place in Monsey, N.Y. on the second-to-last night of the annual winter holiday.

In British Columbia, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver CEO Ezra Shanken said that the attack put the local community on alert, but it hasn’t dampened its holiday spirit.

READ MORE: ‘This is terrorism’: 5 wounded in stabbing attack at Hanukkah celebration in N.Y.

“We are trying to balance the posture of being an open, welcoming place while putting the increased level of security in place so that people can feel safe enough to walk through that door in the first place,” Shanken said.

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He said the Jewish community has developed strong ties with local law enforcement, due to the persistence of anti-Semitism. And in 2017, he said the federation hired a community security director for the first time.

Click to play video: 'B.C.’s Jewish community joins ‘Show Up for Shabbat’' B.C.’s Jewish community joins ‘Show Up for Shabbat’
B.C.’s Jewish community joins ‘Show Up for Shabbat’ – Nov 3, 2018

It also has a security committee that kicks into action every time there’s an attack somewhere during a Jewish holiday. That committee has been active for every major celebration in the last six months.

“We did enter into this holiday with actions taken directly against our community here in British Columbia,” Shanken said, noting that a Jewish camp on Gabriola Island was targeted by vandals who defaced it with Swastikas just before Hanukkah.

READ MORE: Vancouver Jewish community beefs up security amid concerns of growing hate

“What we say out to the community is we should all understand that symbols matter, you know, especially when they represent the hatred that fuelled the loss of the lives of millions of innocent men, women and children,” Shanken said.

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According to Statistics Canada, hate crimes against religious groups grew by 83 per cent between 2016 and 2017.

Click to play video: 'Bomb threat at Vancouver Jewish Centre' Bomb threat at Vancouver Jewish Centre
Bomb threat at Vancouver Jewish Centre – Mar 9, 2017

Crimes targeting Jewish people rose by 63 per cent in that same period, though in B.C. they grew five-fold from 14 to 68 incidents.

Statistics Canada said hate crimes against Jews were primarily non-violent, taking the form of mischief.

Despite the rise in anti-Semitic incidents, worshippers like Susanne Gumprich, who attended prayer services on Monday, said they wouldn’t be deterred.

READ MORE: B.C. funds security upgrades for Jewish community after bomb threats

“Jewish people, we feel a certain empathy and a certain vulnerability, but personally I feel that I live in a very safe city and a very safe place,” Gumprich told Global News.

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Back in New York, police have arrested Grafton E. Thomas in the knife attack. He is now facing five charges of attempted murder.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo has described the incident as “domestic terrorism.”

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