Outpouring of support for Victoria’s Jewish community after Pittsburgh massacre


WATCH: There is shock and sadness for Victoria’s Jewish community after the deadliest attack on Jewish people in North American history. Tess van Straaten reports.


From around the world, support is pouring in after the shocking massacre in Pittsburgh.

“It was wrenching, it was heartbreaking, and it was devastating,” says Selma Linzer of the Jewish Federation of Victoria & Vancouver Island.

The tragedy has rocked Vancouver Island’s Jewish community to its core.

“I was just speaking to a child of Holocaust survivors, who was saying, do I go back into hiding?” says Rabbi Harry Brechner of the Congregation Emanu-El in Victoria.

“What do I do? How do we hold this?”

The shooting rampage at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday claimed 11 lives, making it the deadliest attack on Jewish people in North American history.

The oldest victim was a 97-year-old.

The alleged shooter, 46-year-old Robert Gregory Bowers, reportedly shouted, “all Jews must die” before opening fire.

“We never expected that there would be so much hate that would cause someone to go into a synagogue and slaughter people,” says Linzer.

“The hate is terrifying.”

Canada’s oldest synagogue, Congregation Emanu-El, has been part of the Victoria community for 155 years.

Over those years, the synagogue has been the recipient of hate mail and anti-Semitic messages, and they’ve been on the rise since US President Donald Trump was elected.

“I see a certain rhetoric that’s been turned up on our whole planet and I think it has its effect,” says Rabbi Brechner.

“And it might just affect one person who decides to send that letter.”

Jewish communities on Vancouver Island and across Canada say they’re reviewing security measures in light of the massacre.

But local leaders say the hatred is overshadowed by all the messages of support. They’ll be holding a special memorial on Tuesday to honour the victims and try to make sense of such a senseless act.

“There is a sense of fear, or a sense of being scared,” says Rabbi Brechner.

“But there’s not a fear for myself, I don’t fear for me personally but I fear for the phenomena of anti-Semitism and you can’t escape it.”

A service will be held on Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Centre on Shelbourne Street in Saanich where leaders of different synagogues from around Vancouver Island speak.
Due to space limitations of the venue, the Jewish Federation of Victoria and Vancouver Island is asking that only members of the Island’s Jewish community attend the memorial.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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