Rabbi Harry Brechner is preparing for the upcoming commemoration of Kristallnacht at Congregation Emanu-el synagogue in Victoria but threats aimed at Victoria’s Jewish community over the weekend have him a little on edge.
“On one hand it’s scary, it’s a little unnerving, it’s a sense of do we need to revisit our own sense of security within the sanctuary within the synagogue?” Brechner said.
On Friday, the Victoria International Jewish Film Festival organizers said they received an anti-Semitic threat against proceeding with the event. Saanich and Victoria police urged them to carry on but did a sweep of the building and had uniformed officers and security guards present.
“[The threats] targeted specific aspects of the venue and specific aspects of the event and that raised our level of concern significantly, which is why you saw that presence,” said VicPD spokesperson Bowen Osoko.
The threats come at a time of increased anti-Semitism across North America, with the rapper formerly known as Kanye West expressing anti-Semitic beliefs, messages targeting Jewish people projected on a Florida building, and a warning from the New Jersey FBI that it received a credible threat to synagogues there.
“We are remaining on a higher level of alert when it comes to events that are in the Jewish community here because of the ongoing understanding of those credible threats that are happening across North America,” said Osoko.
But those who investigate those threats across Canada say while there may be a recent surge, anti-Semitism has been rising across the country, and specifically in B.C., since last year.
“The numbers mushroomed in B.C. in 2021, there was a 110 per cent increase, more than doubling the number of incidents of hate aimed at Jews in the province,” said Marvin Rotrand, national director of B’Nai Brith Canada.
For Brechner, it’s critical that Victoria and the surrounding community speak up against hate.
“It’s really to say our whole community stands against this kind of hate and our whole community together says not here, it doesn’t belong here.”
Victoria police say they are continuing to investigate the source of the threats. Fortunately, the film festival was able to wrap up safely on Sunday.