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Jewish York University students sound alarm over antisemitic graffiti found near campus

Click to play video: 'Antisemitic graffiti found near York University raises concerns'
Antisemitic graffiti found near York University raises concerns
WATCH: Police are investigating after antisemitic graffiti was found near York University. As Kayla McLean reports, the incident is being investigated in consultation with the hate crimes unit – Jun 10, 2022

An afternoon stroll down an alleyway near the York University campus took a turn for Robert Leitner.

“I saw the garage open and I kind of just stopped, as I do sometimes, just to take a peek at things and I saw the message on the wall,” said the York U student.

The message scrawled across the garage wall read, “Shoot Jews in the head,” Leitner says, along with “a drawing of (a) Jewish person with a Star of David next to it, being surrounded by what seemed to be sniper targets.”

The violent message and antisemitic caricature was found just steps away from the York U campus the Jewish theatre student attends. Leitner says the sight dealt him a gut punch.

Read more: Toronto teacher subjected to ‘Hitler salute’ speaks out

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“Horrified, scared, just so many emotions — anger, sadness,” said Leitner. “I live less than a minute walk from here and knowing that something so hateful and so maniacal so close to my house where I live and sleep — it’s frightening.”

Leitner says he reached out to his classmate, Garrett Ryan, who is also Jewish, who lives nearby. They sent a pic of the graffiti to B’Nai Brith Canada, a Jewish human rights group. The organization then notified York U.

B’Nai Brith says the incident should be treated as a hate crime.

“You have to take seriously anybody who is urging the public to shoot Jews in the head,” said Marvin Rotrand, national director of B’Nai Brith. “There are too many cases recently of white supremacists and others who are haters acting on things like this and actually committing violent crimes.”

Read more: More antisemitic graffiti found at Toronto schools

The organization says while numbers of antisemitic incidents in Ontario have dropped since 2020, the number of violent antisemitic incidents have risen.

York released a statement on Twitter in response to the graffiti saying, in part, that it “denounces this hateful, antisemitic act and reported it to @TPSOperations Hate Crimes Division. The University condemns this antisemitic act and will continue to suppor the TPS in any way possible.”

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It went on to say “supports are available to community members and direct outreach is underway to Jewish student groups.”

But Ryan and Leitner say while the statement is a start, they want to see the university do more, especially because this antisemitic incident is not isolated.

“York U has its issues with antisemitism, on-campus and around campus,” said Leitner. “There are things that are within York — posters, paintings, artwork that go up that are really just detrimental to the Jewish community.”

“I would just like to see more of a concern,” he continued. “It seems like for the past couple of years, it’s been pushed under the rug.”

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Ryan agrees and says the university should look at meeting with Jewish leaders and student group organizations to come up with solutions to address the issue.

“I want to live in a Toronto that is celebratory of our incredible diversity,” said Ryan. “That’s one of the great things about York, is how diverse it is and I want to feel welcomed within that community.”

Garage near York U where the Anti-Semitic graffiti was found. Kayla McLean/Global News

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