SYNAGOGUE VANDALISM CONNECTED: POLICE

Late night attacks that left four synagogues and a Jewish day school in Hampstead and Côte St. Luc with broken windows on Jan. 16 have been revealed to be part of a pattern involving previous related attacks, according to police reports.

Similar vandalism took place in Sept. 2009 and Jan. 2010, but the police decided to not publicize the incidents in order to give them a chance to solve the cases, according to Commander Sylvain Bissonnette of Cote St. Luc’s police station nine.

He told The Canadian Jewish News last week that it seems likely that the all the recent attacks were perpetrated by the same person, noting that even the rocks used were of a similar type, and that in both cases “we know that it was only one individual [committing the attacks]. We have an idea of the model [of the car. At each location], the driver of the car got out, went to the trunk, opened it, took the rock and threw it at the window, closed the trunk and got back into the car.”

Representatives of the city’s Jewish community are calling the Jan. 16 incident more than just an act of vandalism.

“It’s an assault on Jewish buildings, but we take it as much more than—that it’s an assault on the community,” Rabbi Reuben Poupko told The Link. “It’s an assault on the harmony of Montreal. [However], we’re gratified that there weren’t any injuries.”

Bissonnette confirmed that the current investigation has been aided by the presence of security cameras at several of the crime scenes. The buildings affected were not tagged with any graffiti, each suffering a single broken window caused by thrown rocks.

“We have met the representatives of the various synagogues, [and] we are still gathering information,” said Bissonnette. “Most of them were able to give us the video feed […] and we are still [looking at it] as we are speaking.”

However, Bissonnette refused to speculate on a time frame for any arrests, saying only that “it depends on if we get a break or not,” but added that “for us, it’s a hate crime, so it’s very important.”

Other recent anti-Jewish incidents include a synagogue in Laval that suffered extensive damage after the contents of its oil tanks were emptied out onto its lawn in October. A yeshiva in Outremont was also vandalized with drawings of swastikas in March.

Most infamously, the United Talmud Torahs of Montreal, a Jewish school in St. Laurent, was firebombed in 2004.

Tomer Shavit, president of the Concordia chapter of Hillel, said that despite being upset at the attacks, he does not think that they represent a wider trend, especially not one that can be seen on Concordia’s campus.

“Actually, I think Concordia is a good example of a campus where Jewish students feel completely safe to go to their classes,” he said. “Our current [student union] has worked very hard to be diverse and accommodating. I know how problematic Concordia’s history was in the past, so it’s not something we should take for granted.”

As for what the Jewish student club plans to do in response to the vandalism, Shavit said that more information would be needed before any initiatives were acted upon.

“I’ve called a couple of [Hillel members] and while none of them go to any of those specific synagogues, they do have friends that go there. I know that a lot of people in Hillel want some kind of initiative to raise money, but we don’t know the damage yet, so we’ll […] see if that’s something we even need to do.”

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 20, published January 25, 2011.

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