Montreal -Some members of Montreal’s visible Lubavitch community residing in the Côte des Neiges district of Montreal are afraid to go out of their homes, even during the daytime, in the wake of a number of reported acts of violence.
In addition, three locations in the Montreal suburb of Outremont – home to a large segment of visible Chassidic Jews – had swastikas spray painted on or near their properties last week.
“I live in the area and if I compare the situation now to five years ago there is a serious problem,” Rabbi Mendel Marasow, executive director of Beth Rivkah Academy in Côte des Neiges, told the Jewish Tribune. “There is a gang atmosphere, with tough individuals walking the streets. Last week a man got mugged walking home from shul at 8:30 in the morning. It is uncomfortable and unsafe out there. Is it antisemitic? Listen, all I can say is that Jews make good targets.”
An email sent out by a member of the small Anshei Lubavitch Congregation set off alarm bells. The sender, whose name is not being disclosed, suggested that local Montreal Police Station 26 has not taken a number of incidents seriously. In the email, the alleged robbery of a 12-year-old boy, acts of vandalism at Jewish homes and the mugging of a pregnant woman were cited.
Police Station 26 Commander Simonetta Barth said the only incident she was aware of was the robbery of the young boy. She nonetheless insisted that her station is taking all of the allegations seriously and that two meetings will be scheduled with members of the community in early May. The robbery, she pointed out, was not categorized as antisemitic, but rather a random act of violence.
Lionel Perez, an orthodox Jew who was elected for the first time last November as a city councillor for Côte des Neiges/Darlington, told the Jewish Tribune that there is already an excellent police presence in the area. Nonetheless, given the fact the initial email resulted in a chain reaction, he admits this has created some apprehension in the community and that the special meetings with the police will prove beneficial.
“This will be an opportunity for anyone to speak up,” he said. “From the police perspective, they will explain exactly how to make a 9-1-1 call. I think people need to know that when they do report an incident there are reasons why police cannot always come right away. This police station has bent over backwards for the Jewish community. People need to be reminded of that.”
Rabbi Marasow agrees that the police have always been responsive to the community’s needs.
“They are saying that a lot of these incidents are not being reported,” he said. “Well, the summer is coming and we are a bit worried. I do not know how this cookie will crumble. People may not be bullet proofing their windows, but I will say that I am scared to let my own kids outside. The police have a very strong presence when it comes to giving out tickets, so I do not believe it is a matter of manpower. In the olden days we had beat cops. It was a good thing. They were very present. Perhaps it is time to bring that system back.”
Perez noted that last week a swastika was painted on a bench at Nelson Mandela Park in Côte des Neiges.
“The police were there immediately and within an hour the city’s public works department sent someone to wash it off,” he said.
The B’nai Brith Quebec office has been in touch with all parties concerned and will continue to monitor the situation.
The incidents in Outrement were reported at Boulangerie Cheskie on Bernard Street, the Milk ‘N’ Honey Restaurant on Parc Avenue and Congregation Yetev Lev – Satmar on Hutchison Street.
“There has been a spike in reported incidents of vandalism and swastikas to our office over the past two months,” reported Heidi Oppen, director of B’nai Brith Canada’s Quebec Region. “In March, a series of swastikas was reported in suburban Côte Saint-Luc.”
Yossi Ungar, the owner of Milk ‘N’ Honey, said the swastika was painted on the sidewalk in front of his restaurant.
“The Jewish community in Outremont has been getting a lot of media attention,” he told the Jewish Tribune. “I don’t want to see these incidents get too much publicity because it is only going to stir things up more. I did not even report this. Someone else did.”
Ungar said that in his many years operating a business in the area, he has never before been the victim of antisemitic graffiti.
In March Ahavas Yisroel Viznitz Shul on Van Horne and Durocher streets in Outremont was broken into and two swastikas were drawn on the dias. Vandals also threw talleisim (prayer shawls) and sefarim (holy books) on the floor.
Rabbi Menachem Feig met with police, but the perpetrators still have not been apprehended.
In a statement B’nai Brith Canada – Quebec Region has raised concerns over the recent spike in incidents targetting the Jewish community in various boroughs of Montreal. Over the past few months, vandalism targeting Jewish schools, synagogues and businesses has been reported at an accelerated rate, such as the smashing of windows at two locations. There have also been reports of vandalism of residences of Lubavitch community members and assaults on visibly Jewish individuals. As well, a surge in the number of swastikas spray painted in parks, on Canada post boxes and sidewalks in Cote Saint Luc, Ville Saint Laurent, Cote des Neiges and Outremont has been recorded.
“The recent wave of antisemitic incidents against Quebec’s Jewish community cannot be ignored,” said Me. Moïse Moghrabi, Quebec Regional Chair of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights. “Some community members now reportedly think twice before they leave their homes. The ongoing fear and intimidation suffered by our community is an unacceptable situation in a free and democratic society like Quebec.
“The League for Human Rights has been in touch with the local police to urge them to make this investigation a priority. We call on the community to assist as well by reporting all incidents in a timely fashion to police and to B’nai Brith’s anti-hate hotline at 1-800-892-BNAI begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-892-BNAI end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Oppen said she has been in close contact with the Montreal Police department, which has opened up a file on the incidents.
Some other incidents that have now come to light include smashed windows at Hebrew Academy in Côte Saint-Luc on March 29.
“They have it on tape,” said Oppen. “The person got out of their car and smashed windows. It occurred at midnight and was reported to police.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Moshe New of the Montreal Torah Centre in Hampstead said that on the Shabbat of March 27 paintballs were thrown at his building. At the end of January, he said, a brick was thrown through a window.