One man is in police custody after one of Montreal's largest synagogues was vandalized with anti-Semitic symbols on Wednesday, CTV News reports.
Swastikas were painted onto the doors of Westmount's Congregation Shaar Hashomayim. Rabbi Adam Scheier, the synagogue's rabbi, said the suspect had also brought a gasoline canister with him.
"I was actually walking to another meeting and was maybe 100 meters away from the synagogue. I quickly turned around and when I got there, the perpetrator had already been put in the back of a police car," he told CTV News.
The rabbi said he reviewed security footage which showed the man "putting the can of gasoline down and [taking] out the spray paint. That was the first thing he did and thankfully the last thing."
Police said they received a call from the synagogue's security guard at 1:30 p.m. The guard was able to keep the suspect at the scene until police arrived to make the arrest.
A spokesperson for the SPVM said the suspect was 28 years old and likely suffering from mental health problems. The suspect will remain in police custody until he appears in court on Thursday and will likely be ordered to undergo a mental evaluation.
The incident was condemned by Jewish organizations in Canada.
"This incident is another jarring reminder of the constant need for vigilance in protecting our Jewish communal institutions," said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B'nai Brith Canada. "Anti-Semitism can rear its ugly head anywhere and any time, and we must always do our part to combat it when it does."
"B'nai Brith will be following up with the Montreal Hate Crimes Unit and those affected, to do whatever we can to ensure that justice is served in this case," said Harvey Levine, B'nai Brith's Quebec Regional Director.
Rabbi Reuben Poupko, co-chair of Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs-Quebec, said, “The Jewish community is outraged by today’s vile assault on Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Westmount. This attack targets the entire community and all those who embrace civility and tolerance.”
“Coming in the wake other violent anti-Semitic attacks, it is yet another reminder of the dangerous role social media continues to play in the spreading of hate and the provocation of violence.”
“The Jewish community calls on government and social media to redouble their efforts to monitor and halt this propagation of antisemitism and bigotry. We are grateful to the synagogue security and the police for their rapid response,” concluded Rabbi Poupko.
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) said it was “horrified and disgusted” by the attack.
"This horrid and vile attack on the Jewish community must be unequivocally denounced by all who believe there is no room for hatred in this country," said Michael Levitt, President and CEO of FSWC.
"As the presence of online anti-Semitism and extremism increases, we continue to see that turning into real-life hate and violence. We are calling on community members to remain vigilant and government and law enforcement to take the necessary action to protect the Jewish community from such attacks," he added.
Montreal, which is the largest city in the Canadian province of Quebec, has seen some incidents of anti-Semitism in recent years.
In 2019, a taxi driver in Montreal was caught on camera violently assaulting a visibly Jewish man in a parking garage.
In 2017, a Montreal judge issued an arrest warrant for a local imam who allegedly used his pulpit at a city mosque to call for the slaughter of Jews.
Data released by Statistics Canada in July of 2019 found that Canadian Jews were the most targeted group for hate crimes in 2018, a trend continuing from the previous two years.