Montreal police investigating after ‘Molotov cocktail’ thrown at Jewish centre

Montreal police investigating after 'Molotov cocktail' thrown at Jewish centre
Montreal police are investigating after an incendiary object was allegedly thrown against the door of a Jewish community centre early Monday morning. Police vehicles are shown in this Friday, March 19, 2021, file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Montreal police say an incendiary device was thrown at a Jewish community centre early Monday morning, hours after two MPs attended a meeting inside the building to discuss security concerns with Jewish leaders.

The executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Montreal said he was informed around 12:40 a.m. that the office’s alarm system had been set off. Rabbi Saul Emanuel said in an interview that he arrived on the scene moments later to find the centre’s front window smashed and that a Molotov cocktail had been thrown inside.

“We really feel attacked,” he said, but added that the community wouldn’t be intimidated.

The violence is the latest in a series of attacks against Montreal’s Jewish community since the war between Israel and Hamas began in October.

“We feel that these acts of intimidation are not going to achieve their goal as we will continue to act on behalf of the entire community,” Emanuel said. “That’s what we’ve done for 100 years and we will continue to do it.”

Nobody was inside the building, which suffered minor damage, he said, adding that the window has been repaired and security camera footage handed over to police.

It’s ironic, Emanuel said, that the alleged attack at the centre happened hours after Jewish community leaders met MPs to discuss security concerns and ask for more government aid.

Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Rachel Bendayan confirmed on X — formerly Twitter — that they had been at the centre on Sunday to talk about a federal program that provides funding and other support for communities at risk of hate-motivated crimes

“The fear is real and we will be there to support the security of the community,” Bendayan said.

At 12:15 a.m. on Monday, Housefather shared on X a photo of the meeting at the office of the Jewish Community Council. Emanuel said he learned about the security alarm going off less than an hour after Housefather’s post.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted on X to condemn the attack. “These continued acts of antisemitic violence are deplorable and unacceptable — and must stop immediately,” he wrote. “We must all stand united against such vile, hateful acts.”

Montreal police media relations officer Julien LĂ©vesque said emergency responders were called at about 1 a.m. after an incendiary device was thrown at the door of a building in CĂ´te-des-Neiges. LĂ©vesque said firefighters transferred the investigation to the police’s arson squad, adding that no one was injured and there was only minor damage.

Violent acts against Jewish institutions in the city since the start of the Israel-Hamas war have put the community on edge. Previous incidents include firebombings that caused minor damage at a synagogue and a Jewish organization, as well as gunshots hitting two Jewish school buildings.

Another Jewish school in Montreal, École MaĂŻmonide, was vandalized over the weekend with the words “Israel terrorist” graffitied on the entrance to the building’s parking lot, according to Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, and multiple media reports.

Mayor ValĂ©rie Plante promised on Monday that police were working hard to track down the culprits of the community centre attack and the school graffiti, and reiterated her support for a Jewish community that is “once again plunged into worry.”

“Montreal is a city of peace and inclusion,” she wrote on X. “It must remain so and we’ll make sure of it.”

The federal government announced earlier this month that it would spend $5 million on private security and other safety measures for community groups worried about an increase in hate-fuelled violence. The funding, which has been added to an existing security infrastructure program, will allow community organizations to apply for things such as temporary private security services.

Emanuel said his organization was one of about 100 who wrote a letter to the government asking for changes to the program to make it less bureaucratic, better-funded and easier to access for smaller organizations with limited budgets.

While the alleged attack at the Jewish Community Council is being investigated as arson, police in both Montreal and Toronto have noted an increase in hate crimes targeting the Jewish and Muslim communities since the war broke out in October.

Between Oct. 7 and Nov. 21, Montreal police have received reports of 61 hate crimes and 46 hate-related incidents targeting the Jewish community, and 20 hate crimes and 15 hate incidents against Arabs or Muslims.

Toronto police said between Oct. 7 and Nov. 20, there had been 38 reports of antisemitic hate crimes, compared to 13 during the same period last year, and 17 anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian or anti-Arab hate crime reports, compared to one during the same time last year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2023.

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