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Attacks on synagogues, school, linked, police say

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Attacks on synagogues, school, linked, police say

By Katherine Wilton, Montreal Gazette
January 18, 2011

MONTREAL - Jewish community leaders say they are alarmed by six attacks on Jewish institutions over the weekend and said the incidents can't be dismissed as simple acts of vandalism.

"This (is not) vandalism perpetrated by teenagers out on a Saturday night binge," said Rabbi Reuben Poupko, who serves as chairman of the Jewish Community Security Coordinating Committee.

"This is a concentrated assault, not just on the Jewish community, but on the diversity and harmony of the city of Montreal. All Montrealers should take this seriously."

Five synagogues and a Jewish school were targeted by vandals who hurled rocks through windows between 2 and 3 a.m. Sunday.

Beth Rambam, Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem and Beth Zion synagogues in Cote St. Luc, Dorshei Emet synagogue in Hampstead and Congregation Shaare Zedek in Notre Dame de Grace were targeted. The Academie Yavne in Cote St. Luc was also hit.

"There is a profound sense of violation in the (Jewish) community," Poupko said Monday. "People take their synagogues very seriously, they view them as a second home."

Montreal police said they have stepped up patrols in the neighbourhoods and are reviewing video from security cameras to see whether they can identify the perpetrators.

The local police commander said the six attacks are definitely linked.

"It was the same modus operandi, it seems that they were done one after another," said Commander Sylvain Bissonnette of Station 9 in Cote St. Luc.

No attempt was made to enter the synagogues, he said.

Police have assigned an experienced detective to lead the investigation, someone who knows the West End neighbourhoods well, said Constable Simon Delorme of the Montreal police.

Steve Slimovitch, a spokesperson for B'nai Brith Canada, said he is alarmed that an individual or individuals targeted the various West End synagogues to carry out the attacks.

"Someone didn't just come across a synagogue and say: 'Let's throw a rock'," he said. "They took the time to single out Jewish institutions. That is very scary for the Jewish community."

The weekend attacks resulted in only broken windows, but in one incident last March, the Ahavath Israel synagogue in Outremont was defaced with swastikas.

Poupko said he believes Montreal police are taking the attacks seriously, adding that police have moved quickly in the past to arrest those responsible for other attacks on Jewish institutions, such as the firebombing of the library at United Talmud Torah School in 2004 and the firebombing of the Jewish community centre in Snowdon in 2007.

Poupko said he received a distressing telephone call on Monday morning from a Holocaust survivor who was devastated by the most recent attacks.

"She was an elderly woman, she was sobbing on the phone," he said. "They (the attacks) are a source of enormous pain and distress, especially for those whose memories are haunted by a terrifying past."

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