TORONTO (JTA) — More than 1,000 people held a vigil in Canada a week after vandals desecrated headstones in a Jewish cemetery in British Columbia.
"All of us coming out here and standing together tells us that we will not be silent in the face of hate crime," Rabbi Harry Brechner told the Jan. 8 gathering in Victoria, which included city councillors and other officials. Jews and non-Jews participated in the vigil.
Five graves in Victoria’s historic Emanu-El Jewish Cemetery were vandalized Dec. 31 with swastikas and other hateful language, leaving the small Jewish community shaken.
Police are treating the graffiti as a hate crime and have been calling on residents to come forward with information.
Brechner told vigil participants several stories about Holocaust survivors buried in the cemetery.
"The idea of putting hate symbols near their graves is despicable and my hope was that that person can come forward, but you know what? All of us came forward," Brechner said, according to the Victoria Times-Colonist. "This, all of us; this is hope."
Local blogger Shoshana Litman wrote that "more than a thousand sang, many for the first time, the traditional Hebrew song ‘Hineh Matov’ (How good it is to sit together as brothers and sisters) perched arm in arm on rocks and mossy ground." She noted "the willingness of complete strangers to put their arms around each other, swaying rhythmically as we sang."