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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
According to Statistics Canada, hate crimes against religious groups grew by 83 per cent between 2016 and 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.
“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.
“It makes me feel glad to be a part of a community that supports me.”
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.”