Jewish community leaders in Montreal on Tuesday called for widespread condemnation of the overnight firebombings of two local Jewish institutions, saying the incidents are the latest evidence of antisemitism in the city.
“If you’re asking how the Jewish community is feeling, they’re not feeling so safe,” Yair Szlak, president and CEO of Montreal Jewish organization Federation CJA, told a news conference. “And I think there is a lot to be done by our politicians, by our leaders, by leaders of every community to say that this is not acceptable behaviour.”
The two firebombings in the night between Monday and Tuesday caused minor damage to the front door of the Congregation Beth Tikvah synagogue and the back door of the nearby Federation CJA office in the Montreal suburb of Dollard-des-Ormeaux. No one was injured since the two buildings were empty at the time of the incidents, Szlak said.
The firebombings are under investigation by the Montreal police department. Police spokesperson Sabrina Gauthier said Tuesday morning that investigators had not yet determined a motive for the apparent attacks, but they come amid rising tensions linked to the Israel-Hamas war, which was sparked by an Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that killed about 1,400 people, mostly civilians. The Palestinian death toll from retaliatory Israeli strikes had surpassed 10,000, the Health Ministry of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said Monday.
Congregation Beth Tikvah cantor Henry Topas said in a statement released by Jewish group B’nai Brith Canada that the synagogue is “horrified that exactly one month to the day of the atrocities committed by Hamas, someone tried to burn down our house of worship.”
Szlak called the Oct. 7 Hamas attack “a dark day in Jewish history. To perpetuate that crime against humanity by acts against the Jewish community anywhere in the world is wrong,” he said. “What has happened today cannot happen again. It must be the last time this happens.”
Police recorded 38 reports of hate crimes and other incidents targeting the Montreal Jewish community between Oct. 7 and Oct. 25.