Montreal Jewry seeks $10 million to protect schools, synagogues

The Canadian Jewish federation is seeking $10 million to better protect schools, synagogues and other community institutions.  

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The umbrella Canadian Jewish organization in Montreal has launched a $10 million drive to upgrade the security in some nearly three dozen local institutions.

Federation CJA’s move comes in response to the global rise of anti-Semitism in general, and more specifically, a statistic showing that Jews were the most targeted minority by hate groups in Canada for the third year in a row, according to a report released late last month by Statistics Canada.

The fact that the 345 hate crimes reported to police in 2018 was a four percent drop from the year before is not comforting enough for the 31 Jewish schools, synagogues, agencies and organizations that have joined the federation’s voluntary Community Security Network (CSN).

According to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, there was in fact a 16.5 percent rise recorded in the 2018 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, which includes verbal harassment and online targeting.

As Ran Ukashi, national director for the league for human rights at B’nai Brith Canada said in a report by CBC in April, “The biggest concern we have is will the rhetoric take the natural step of violence? We’re always concerned that if these ideologies spread past the fringe, not necessarily to the mainstream, it could have serious repercussions for the Jewish community.”

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The institutions are therefore seeking funds to improve their safety by adding surveillance equipment to their buildings, training staff on how to deal with security incidents and raising awareness among the Jewish public at large.

Hiring armed security guards, as is common in Israel and the United States, is not on the table, however, said Federation CEO Yair Szlak, because “It’s not legal in Quebec,” he told the Canadian Jewish News.

Szlak voiced full support for the fundraising drive, saying that the CSN should become the “single point of contact [in Montreal] for critical incident co-ordination, information and intelligence sharing, as well as safety and security training.”

The federation is paying an outside security firm to develop an overall security protocol and give tailor-made recommendations to specific institutions, he said.

On a personal level, he added that Canadian Jewry has to learn to be more suspicious of possible threats, even though he emphasized that “We have no indication or information from law enforcement agencies of an immediate threat to our community.”

“As I learned from my time in Israel, if you see something, say something,” he said.