Two Nazi swastikas were scrawled inside a Montreal synagogue this past Sabbath, according to a police report, which classified the graffiti as a hate crime.
The swastikas were drawn on the bima – the stand upon which the Torah scroll is placed when the portion of the week is read before the congregation.
Worshipers who arrived Saturday morning at Ahavath Israel d’Chasidei Viznitz synagogue for Sabbath services also found prayer shawls and prayer books scattered about on the floor. Mayer Feig, executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Council for Community Relations of Montreal, told reporters there are approximately 100 members in the congregation.
There are approximately a dozen Chassidic congregations in the neighborhood, he added.
'A small group has a problem'
The synagogue’s administrator, Hersh Ber Hirsch, told the Montreal Gazette, “A curtain around the Torah had been moved. But the Torah was safe – it was in a safe.” He commented that “generally, we have very good relations with our neighbors, although there is a small group that has a problem with identity issues.” Eight weeks ago, he said, one of the synagogue’s windows was broken. He reported the incident to the police.
Whoever scrawled the swastika on the bima “shows they have hatred,” Hirsch said. “We are a quiet religious community.”
The Outremont borough synagogue was broken into by at least one and possibly two suspects, according to the police report. The point of entry was apparently through a rear window, police spokesman Const. Raphael Bergeron said, adding that the investigation is continuing.
Anti-Semitic incidents in Canada reached record highs in 2009, according to an annual report released by the B’nai Brith Canada organization, which noted that there has been a five-fold increase in incidents over the past decade.