TORONTO (Jul. 16)
Canadian police say there is no concrete evidence that this week’s murder of a Chasidic man wearing a skullcap was a hate crime.
But members of the Canadian Jewish community disagree over the characterization of Sunday’s stabbing of David Rosenzweig, 49, outside a kosher pizzeria.
After making the arrest of Christopher Steven McBride and another suspect on Monday night, police officials said more investigation was needed before the death of the father of six could be classified as a hate crime.
“We have to wait and see,” Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino said. “We had no further information that would classify it formally as a hate-motivated crime, but we don’t exclude the possibility.”
McBride is a slight 20-year-old with a shaved head and tattoos.
“I don’t categorize him as a skinhead,” Police Staff-Inspector Bob Clarke said. “I categorize him as an individual who has his head shaved.”
But some of the 200 people who gathered at a vigil Monday night near the spot where Rosenzweig fell said the attack was just the latest in a wave of international anti-Semitism during the past year.
“I’m shocked by it, but I’m not surprised it happened,” said Fern Waterman, a physician-psychologist. Referring to a U.N. anti-racism conference in South Africa that featured widespread anti-Semitism, she added, “I think it’s entirely in keeping with the spirit of that witch hunt that occurred last year in Durban under the guise of free speech. I think Durban gave license to these skinheads to do deeds like this and let them think they’re doing the world a favor.”
Canadian Jewish leaders agree that the murder was likely a hate crime.
Frank Dimant, a friend of the family and the executive vice president of B’nai Brith Canada, said the stabbing was the result of a hate culture that has been allowed to grow in Canada “thanks to some of the media in this country and thanks to some of the unions and thanks to the anti-Israel bashing that demonizes Jews.”
“Here we have individuals who were apparently skinheads, which seems to be a clear statement of their ideology,” Dimant said. “They come into a Jewish restaurant in a Jewish neighborhood to cause trouble, and they kill a Jew. I don’t think they necessarily have to scream, ‘I hate Jews.’ Their demeanor says it all.”
After viewing photographs of McBride on a police Web site, Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress observed that his tattoos seemed to resemble those worn by some white supremacists.
Earlier in the day, an estimated 2,000 people, including Toronto’s mayor and the premier of the province of Ontario, attended Rosenzweig’s funeral.
Despite the official show of support, the murder seems to have touched a nerve in this vibrant Jewish community of about 170,000, the largest in Canada.
The community’s sense of security seems to have been violated. As they express their grief, many people are also expressing rage at the seemingly random act of violence as well as newly-vocalized fears about appearing Jewish in public.
“I hate to say it but I’m going to tell my grandchildren not to walk to shul wearing” yarmulkes, said Edmund Lipsitz, an educator and former official with the Canadian Jewish Congress, who lives two blocks from the murder site. “I thought that after going through the Holocaust I would be able to live my life peacefully, but it looks like evil times are back again, even in a city like Toronto.”
McBride and his associates were involved in an earlier altercation with the owner of the pizzeria, who threw them out of the store, police said.
The owner, David Chazan, told the Jerusalem Post they “looked like they were out for a fight,” but added that “nothing they said was anti-Semitic.”
One of the men produced a knife outside the restaurant, where Rosenzweig, an accountant and the child of Holocaust survivors, was helping fix a flat tire on his son’s car.
“David was extremely caring and loving to his family,” said his brother-in-law, Rabbi Ben Hecht. “He was devoted to his wife and children. It’s not surprising that he was out after midnight to help his son.”
Apparently, he was never inside the pizzeria.
“Mr. Rosenzweig was outside the store on the street, basically an innocent bystander, and one of the men stabbed him in the back,” said a police media relations officer, Sgt. Jim Muscat
He “was basically in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Fantino said.