The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), a Canadian Jewish advocacy group, on Tuesday condemned an incident in which students at a Toronto school performed a Nazi salute in front of a Jewish teacher.

The incident took place at Valley Park Middle School in Toronto last Thursday. According to a letter sent to parents, two 8th grade students stood up on filing cabinets and performed the Nazi salute, after which a third student, from his desk and in front of his classmates, shouted “Heil Hitler” directed at the classroom’s Jewish teacher. This is the second antisemitic incident at the school, which was also recently defaced and vandalized with swastika graffiti.

Noah Shack, Vice President, GTA, at CIJA, said in response, “The incidents reported at Valley Park Middle School are absolutely outrageous and unacceptable. This is yet another example of antisemitism manifesting in schools across the GTA and throughout the province, with incidents occurring on a weekly basis since the beginning of this school year.” 

“We appreciate the clear and immediate response of Valley Park MS Principal George Bartzis and the steps taken by the TDSB to address the situation. However, the frequency of antisemitism in Toronto schools underscores the need for proactive measures,” he added.

“The TDSB has seconded an antisemitism expert from CIJA to support its equity team in addressing this trend, and the Ministry of Education has invested in the development of proactive antisemitism education resources by CIJA and other community-based organizations to fill this concerning gap. It is imperative that the next generation develop an understanding of antisemitism as a means of standing up against hate in our society,” said Shack.

Earlier on Tuesday, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) condemned the incident and urged the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to intervene in order to address the serous escalation of antisemitic incidents at Toronto schools.

“This wave of antisemitism at TDSB schools that we are seeing is unprecedented in terms of both number of incidents and their escalating gravity. This most recent incident involving a Jewish teacher is particularly horrifying,” said FSWC CEO Michael Levitt. “Antisemitism has reached epidemic proportions at TDSB, and it is time for the board to recognize this as the crisis that it is. It is unfathomable and shocking that, in 2022, a Jewish teacher is faced with Nazi salutes and a ‘Heil Hitler’ chant in her classroom. Clearly, something is broken in Toronto’s public school system and requires immediate attention.”

The organization is demanding an “emergency intervention” by the TDSB to address the “wave of antisemitism that we see playing out within the student body.”

They urged the board to implement a program “which will proactively address the hateful stereotypes and misinformation that exist and send a strong message that Jew-hatred will simply not be tolerated within our schools.”

The incident occurred only a few weeks after swastika graffiti was discovered at the same school, according to the TDSB. FSWC noted that two weeks ago, students performed a Nazi salute and depicted the swastika in front of students at another Toronto school.

Several days after that incident, TDSB removed a teacher from the classroom who compared vaccine passports to the yellow Star of David that Jews were forced to wear in the Holocaust.