A wave of anti-Semitic assaults and harassment of Jews in Canada has led to the creation of a Toronto, Ontario chapter of Shomrim, which will offer a volunteer civilian patrol of Jewish neighbourhoods in Toronto and suburb York Region.
According to the Canadian Jewish News (CJN), Shomrim Toronto Community Patrol was quickly put together after a May 15 rally at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square where pro-Palestinian protestors violently assaulted a crowd there in support of Israel.
“Within about 12 hours, we had 20 to 25 cars on the road just patrolling,” Shaya Kutnowski, Shomrim Toronto’s community liaison, told the CJN.
The group so far has 30 to 40 volunteers who patrol areas near synagogues, Jewish schools and community buildings in Toronto, Thornhill and Richmond Hill.
Community members have been frequently calling Shomrim Toronto’s phone number.
Toronto Shomrim will work similarly to Shomrim groups in New York City and London, UK. Volunteers will be instructed to only observe and call police, not to confront directly.
Eventually, they hope to have the means to send volunteers for training in security protocols, safety and the law.
All volunteers are unarmed and do not have the legal authority to conduct arrests. They will be trained to identify suspicious activity. If an assailant is spotted, they will note down a physical description and licence plate number to be given to police.
Eventually, volunteers will wear uniforms and their cars will have the Shomrim logo on them.
On normal days, two cars in Toronto and two cars in York Region will patrol until midnight. For Shabbat and Jewish holidays, they plan to have 10 to 20 patrols in Toronto and York Region.
“We want people to be able to walk to shuls and schools and parks in peace without having to worry if they’re wearing a Magen David around their necks," Kutnowski told the CJN. “There’s violence everywhere. Anyone who says there isn’t is not paying attention.”
The Shomrim will work as an addition to UJA Community Security, which began two years ago. B’nai Brith Canada is also supportive.
Kutnowski added that their purpose is to keep Jews safe, not get involved in violent confrontations. “We’re a peaceful organization. We’re not here to fight with anyone. You don’t fight fire with fire.”