Canadian Jews face anti-Semitic abuse during Rosh Hashana, vow to fight back

“Jews should never be afraid to walk around in their own neighbourhoods. Not in Canada. Not in any country. And not in 2020,” said one victim.

By Atara Beck, World Israel News

Three anti-Semitic incidents occurred in the province of Ontario during this year’s Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, B’nai Brith Canada reported in a press release.

Two occurred in the suburban community of Thornhill, just north of the city of Toronto. Thornhill hosts the largest Jewish community in Canada.

Late Friday, just before the start of Rosh Hashana, which was observed from Friday night to Sunday night, a man accosted a Jewish father and son outside a Thornhill synagogue, yelling, “You’re a piece of sh-t, you’re Jewish – you run the f—ing world,” before approaching the victim’s car and attempting to stick his hand inside, B’nai Brith reported.

Victim Avi Benchetrit filmed part of the incident.

“I managed to capture the last 10 seconds of what was close to a one-minute verbal assault (which almost ended with a physical assault) when he reached into the car to hit me. We all need to stand up to this vile hatred in all of its forms,” Benchetrit posted on Facebook.

“Jews should never be afraid to walk around in their own neighbourhoods. Not in Canada. Not in any country. And not in 2020,” he wrote.

On Sunday evening, near the end of the holiday, also in Thornhill, two private garage doors were defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti reading “Jews Run the World” and “Jews Hate Blacks,” and a nearby vehicle was vandalized.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, the press release continues, a prominent member of the local Jewish community said that while praying at an outdoor service on Saturday, a man drove by, spat at worshippers and called them “dirty f—-ing Jews.”

“These appalling incidents have struck a chord with the Jewish community at what is already a challenging time for many,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada, who appealed to anyone else who has been victimized to come forward.

“There’s no question that along with the anxieties, fears, frustration and anger driven by the COVID crisis, we’ve seen a resurgence of anti-Semitism and hate in Thornhill and around the world,” Peter Kent, a Conservative Member of Parliament for the riding of Thornhill and the former Minister of the Environment, told World Israel News.

“Some of it is overt, as the case of the ravings of the individual in Thornhill, captured on video. There’s also hateful vandalism, swastikas and such, and social media spewings.  And, as we’ve seen, along with the old libels there are accusations again that Jews are both spreading the pandemic and profiting from it.

“All of this is happening at the same time as Canada has experienced echoes of mass protests and counter-protests in the U.S over police violence and systemic racism,” Kent noted

“Politicians at all levels of government have denounced the surge in anti-Semitism and broader manifestations of hate. And, certainly in Thornhill and other communities, police forces are again on somewhat heightened alert through the High Holidays.”

Incidentally, Kent added, Erin O’Toole, the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and leader of our Official Opposition in the House of Commons, is hosting a virtual meeting with leaders of the Jewish community across Canada on Thursday evening.

Gila Martow, a prominent member of the local Jewish community, represents the electoral district of Thornhill in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as a member of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

As the MPP for a riding with a significant Jewish population, the increasing prevalence of anti-Semitism and other forms of hate is concerning,” she said in a statement Wednesday, following reports of anti-Semitism during Rosh Hashana. “We must all acknowledge that racism and discrimination are urgent problems that continue to create real-life barriers for people and hold back our communities.

“That’s why our government is establishing a new Anti-Racism and Anti-Hate grant program, which will provide $1.6 million in total funding, to assist community-based projects focused on eliminating racism and hate – including anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, antisemitism and Islamophobia.

“Hate and racism have no place in our community, and we must all be vigilant in preventing its spread.  I encourage everyone to document and report discrimination when they see it,” she concluded.

B’nai Brith has noted a rise in anti-Semitism associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Its 2019 Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents had already recorded 2,207 incidents last year, which the organization said was a “grim new record.”