Hamilton, Ontario skyline
Hamilton, Ontario skylineiStock

Police in the Canadian city of Hamilton, located about 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Toronto, are investigating anti-Semitic graffiti that was left outside the city’s Beth Jacob Synagogue over the weekend.

The graffiti was written in bright pink chalk on the pavement at the entrance to the synagogue. It said the word “Jews”, crossed out within a circle, and also included a swastika.

Police arrived on the scene to document the evidence and while investigating, officers found several more instances of anti-Semitic graffiti around the synagogue, according to Global News.

Rabbi Hillel Lavery-Yisraeli, the congregation’s spiritual leader, told Global News, “It’s really disturbing. We have Holocaust survivors in our congregation who recognize that symbol and had to see it again in their later years.

“And it’s difficult for young people also. I have a six-year-old son who was with me, and we had to explain to him what it meant. It was really shocking,” he added.

“We don’t want to be hidden,” he continued. “You can see our synagogue from the street and we’re proud to be here. We’re proud to be part of Hamilton and part of this multicultural city.”

Rabbi Lavery-Yisraeli said they’ve looked at surveillance camera footage from Friday night, which he said shows four males between the ages of 16 and 18 leaving the graffiti at approximately 10:20 p.m.

Hamilton Police Const. Jerome Stewart confirmed that the hate crime unit is investigating the graffiti and is asking for anyone in the area of Aberdeen Avenue between Locke Street and Dundurn Street to check their security cameras for surveillance footage from that night.

Ontario NDP leader and Hamilton Centre MPP Andrea Horwath released a statement condemning the racist graffiti, as well as reports of an unknown man allegedly taking photos of worshippers at the Hamilton Downtown Mosque.

“There is no place for hatred, anti-Semitism or Islamophobia in our community,” she said. “Acts of vandalism and fear-mongering will not deter us from attending our places of worship and practicing our faiths.”

“We stand with the Jewish and Muslim communities during this difficult time. As a community, we must continue to call out these callous and cowardly acts and work collectively to put an end to hate in Hamilton,” added Horwath.

Global News noted that a report on hate crimes and hate/bias incidents reported to Hamilton Police in 2018 found that the number of incidents targeting the Jewish community rose by 25 per cent over 2017.

Data released by Statistics Canada in July found that Canadian Jews were the most targeted group for hate crimes in 2018, a trend continuing from the previous two years.

In total, police across Canada reported 347 hate crimes targeting Jews in 2018, down marginally from the 2017 figure of 360. However, anti-Jewish hate crimes amounted to 19% of the national total, even though Jews account for only about 1% of the Canadian population.

The report was consistent with B’nai Brith’s 2018 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. The Audit found an overall increase in the number of incidents in 2018, but a slight decrease in cases of vandalism and violence, which are more likely to be recorded by police as hate crimes than cases of harassment.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Yom Kippur in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)