B’nai Brith Canada has commended the Ontario judicial system for holding to account two men who were found guilty of vandalizing a Hamilton, Ontario synagogue in October 2019.
Liam Greaves and Blake Trautman were sentenced in Hamilton on Tuesday. Both defendants were given conditional sentences of house arrest and community service followed by probation.
The sentences took place over two years after the men wrote anti-Jewish statements with chalk on the parking lot of Beth Jacob synagogue.
During the trial, both men said they had been drinking heavily when they committed the vandalism but denied their motivation for the defacement was driven by hate.
The graffiti included the word “Jews” in a red circle with a line through it and a swastika. The vandalism was seen by congregants the next morning when they arrived for Shabbat services on the Saturday that fell between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Rabbi Hillel Lavery-Yisraeli said in a victim impact statement that the incident was traumatizing for some congregants, including Holocaust survivors, the Canadian Jewish News reported.
“This incident was unimaginably frightening. Our sanctuary was full that day with members of all ages, including Holocaust survivors, people who, 70 years later, thought they had left all of that behind them and had found a new sanctuary in Canada,” he said. “There is no way to undo the feeling of fear it created to think some of our neighbours still identify with Nazi ideology.”
He added: “Even two years later some Jewish teenagers are still afraid to come to the synagogue because of this.”
B’nai Brith intervened in the case, providing a Community Impact Statement (CIS) that outlined the damage that anti-Semitic vandalism does to Jewish Canadians seeking to practice their faith and congregate in peace.
“We are encouraged that the two men came forward and apologized for this hateful act,” said B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn. “This case would not have been solved had the two not stepped forward. Nonetheless, they caused grave alarm with their hateful sentiments. There is never any excuse for such vile acts.”
In an effort to tackle mounting incidents of anti-Semitism and hate, in August Hamilton’s city council launched a new unit to respond to bias incidents, including cases of anti-Semitism.