MONTREAL (Jan. 5)
Jewish leaders have condemned the defacement of seven synagogues this past weekend in what some have called the worst rash of anti-Semitic attacks ever seen in this city.
Unidentified vandals painted red swastikas on all the synagogues and scrawled on one of them “Juden raus” (Jews out), the notorious slogan used by the Gestapo in World War II. All seven incidents, which were spread throughout the city, occurred within a span of 24 hours.
The defacements were the first in Quebec since a Jewish cemetery in the city of Sherbrooke was vandalized in 1991.
“This is the worst act of racism in terms of magnitude and scope ever,” said Jonathan Schneiderman, spokesman for B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights here.
The league has been concerned with a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Montreal over the last two years, ranging from hate mail to assaults, although Quebec has experienced fewer such incidents than several other Canadian provinces.
In Toronto, anti-Semitic slogans were painted onto three synagogues this past summer and a Jewish cemetery was defaced with red swastikas.
Schneiderman and others pointed to a possible connection between the vandalism here and the rise of neo-Nazi violence in Europe.
“We’re used to swastikas, but when they start using terminology used in Nazi Germany, it’s a different ballgame, especially with what’s going on in Germany now with skinheads,” said Zev Mestel of the Beth Ora congregation in the St. Laurent section, one of the synagogues hit.
‘CRIMES AGAINST OUR COMMUNITY’
The weekend’s events “confirm the dire warnings” about the increase of hate crimes in Canada, said Rabbi Sidney Shohan of B’nai Brith.
“We should not shake our heads at what is happening in Germany and think it cannot happen here,” Shohan said in a statement.
“We assume that this has something to do with neo-Nazis,” said Michael Crelinsten, executive-director of Canadian Jewish Congress’ Quebec region. “It’s a particularly poignant event in a city like Montreal, with its large Holocaust survivor community.”
Crelinsten voiced pessimism that authorities would be able to catch the perpetrators.
CJC has, however, offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of those responsible.
At Congregation Beth Israel Beth Aaron, one of the two synagogues in the predominantly Jewish suburb of Cote St. Luc that were vandalized, the graffiti were apparently sprayed onto the building while congregants were inside late Saturday afternoon for the mincha service.
“There are those who are tempted to dismiss these acts as being perpetrated by social outcasts,” said Rabbi Reuben Poupko, spiritual leader of the synagogue.
“Yet we must remember the history of this century,” he said. “Insignificant people can do terribly significant damage.
“Swastikas on synagogues do not represent crimes against buildings, but are crimes against our community and attempts to tear the very fabric of our society,” he said.