Synagogue Vandalism in Montreal Ruled as Hate Crime

Published: March 24th 2010
in News » Local

Congregation Ahavath Israel d�Chasidei Viznitz was vandalized

Vandals broke into Congregation Ahavath Israel d’Chasidei Viznitz in Montreal Friday night. Montreal police are treating the attack as a hate crime due to the graffiti of two swastikas on the bimah (pulpit). The synagogue is located in Outremont a Montreal neighbourhood that is known as the heart of Montreal’s Hasidic community.


Police say vandals broke a window in the synagogue’s basement to gain entry sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning. Members of the congregation discovered the synagogue in disarray when they arrived Saturday morning around 6 a.m. for Shabbat prayer services. Over one-hundred members of the area’s Hasidic community worship at Ahavath Israel, some of which are Holocaust survivors.


Adam Atlas, President of the Quebec Jewish Congress, a division of the Canadian Jewish Congress spoke to Shalom Life about the incident. “They [the vandals] used the black marker that they found in the synagogue to draw the swastikas. The black markers were used for touching up the tefillin.” Atlas claims that tension between Outremont’s Hasidic community and other residents of the borough has been growing due to some inhabitants distaste for Hasidism. “The Hasidic community lives with a certain measure of angst, a kind of persistent tension where there is very obviously hostility towards the Hasidic community.”


Synagogue administrator Hersch Ber Hirsch told the Montreal Gazette that the congregation maintains great relationships within the Outremont populace despite the fact that some of the people in the community have an aversion to ultra-Orthodox Judaism.


CTV News Montreal reported that the attackers also threw religious symbols such as prayer books and shawls to the ground. It is not the first time that this particular synagogue has been vandalized when a few months ago a window was broken. However, the first attack was not ruled as a hate crime.


As of press time the police have no suspects and are investigating the surveillance footage of the neigbouring buildings. The synagogue does not have a security system but the leaders of Ahavath Israel are looking into beefing up security by installing security cameras around the building. Fortunately, the torah was in a safe and was not harmed in the attack.


A recent study put forth by B’nai Brith Canada claims Anti-Semitic incidents reached an all time high in Canada in 2009. The organization further states that there has been a five-fold increase in episodes of Anti-Semitic nature of the last decade.

Related articles: (montreal, synagogue, vandalism)

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