Acts of anti-Semitic vandalism in 1993 increased 128 percent across Canada over the year before, according to B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights.
The league publishes an annual tabulation of acts of vandalism and harassment, and the results for 1993 showed a disturbing trend, said the league’s national chairman, Stephen Scheinberg.
“In a climate of economic uncertainty and political fatigue, we have witnessed an erosion of traditional taboos against expressing hatred, and an explosion of hate crimes directed against the Jewish community and institutions,” said Scheinberg.
“Other identifiable groups have faced similar surges in hostility toward them,” he said. “This is a national problem that requires a dramatic and coordinated response.”
The statistics reveal 105 incidents of vandalism and 151 reported incidents of harassment last year – the highest total reported in the 12 years that B’nai Brith has been tracking identifiable acts of anti-Semitism.
In keeping with past trends, there appears to be a correlation between the size of the particular Jewish community and the number of acts perpetrated against it.
More than 60 percent of the reported incidents occurred in Toronto and Montreal, the largest population centers of Canadian Jewry.
In Toronto, there were 107 anti-Semitic incidents, representing a 10 percent increase over 1992.
In Montreal, there were 54 incidents, more than twice the number reported the previous year.
The B’nai Brith tabulations rely on information provided by their regional offices across Canada, and they are based upon the voluntary reporting of anti- Semitic incidents by the intended victims, whose accounts are later corroborated and documented.
It has been found that hate crimes, as is the case with spousal and child abuse, tend to be under-reported, and it is believed that the number of actual incidents is probably much higher.
Nonetheless, B’nai Brith believes its audit to be an accurate indicator of anti-Semitic trends. The group’s tabulations serve as the basis for the planning and deployment of communal resources to combat racism.
The incidents reported last year include the desecration of seven Montreal synagogues on the same night during the first week of 1993; the burning of the home of a prominent anti-racist activist in Kitchener, Ontario; a bomb attack against Calgary’s House of Jacob Synagogue; and an attack by vandals on Congregation Emmanuel in Victoria, British Columbia, where the temple was defaced with swastikas and blood.
Incidents of race-related hatred were also on the rise in high schools and on college campuses.
To combat harassment directed at young Jews, the B’nai Brith league recently released a student handbook instructing teens and young adults about how to deal with the problem.
In 1993, the Human Rights Youth League was launched to teach young Jews how to take a stand against racism through non-violent, legal ways.
Scheinberg said, “Our position has been that we’ve been comparatively lucky in Canada compared to parts of the world like Western Europe, and we’ve sort of been waiting for things to get worse.
“The trend has not yet reached full stem and we’d better be prepared for it when that happens.”