B’nai Brith Canada on Monday expressed concern over a spate of anti-Semitic graffiti in the downtown Toronto area over the Passover holiday.

In a statement, the organization said that last Wednesday, the eve of Passover, it was notified of graffiti seemingly blaming the COVID-19 pandemic on “the Jews.”

This vandalism defaced the garage of a private home on Crawford Street, near College Street and Ossington Avenue. The graffiti has since been removed, it said.

The very next day, according to B’nai Brith Canada, the BlogTO website reported that the words “Zionists are not welcome” had been spray-painted on an Aroma Espresso Bar location at College Street and Bathurst Street in Toronto, an area just a 10-minute walk away from the site of the previous vandalism. Aroma was founded in Israel in 1994.

The same Toronto Aroma location had been vandalized with an almost identical hateful message just about a week earlier.

B’nai Brith has reported all three incidents to Toronto Police, who are investigating the matter.

These incidents come while non-essential businesses in Ontario have been ordered to close, though some Aroma locations remain open to serve beverages and baked goods only.

“It is disappointing that while most people are working together in the face of crisis, at least one person has instead chosen to spread hatred,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada.

“Spreading anti-Semitic messages during a Jewish holiday is a particularly despicable act,” he added.

Elsewhere in Toronto, said B’nai Brith Canada, Ledbury Park Elementary and Middle School was defaced with swastikas on April 1.

Hatemongers have also taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “Zoombomb” online Jewish gatherings, including a webinar hosted by a Canadian Jewish group and a gathering held by a Vancouver Jewish school.

Earlier this month, a Judaica store in Toronto that had been closed due to the coronavirus outbreak was broken into and vandalized.

Aleph Bet Judaica, founded in 1988 and located on Bathurst Street in the heart of Toronto's Jewish community, had its windows smashed and its till emptied during early morning hours, when no employee was on site.

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.