MONTREAL -- One man is in police custody after one of Montreal's largest synagogues was vandalized with anti-Semitic symbols on Wednesday.

Swastikas were painted onto the doors of Westmount's Congregation Shaar Hashomayim. Adam Scheier, the synagogue's rabbi, said the suspect had also brought a gasoline canister with him.

"I was actually walking to another meeting and was maybe 100 metres away from the synagogue," said Scheier.

"I quickly turned around and when I got there, the perpetrator had already been put in the back of a police car."

The rabbi said he reviewed security footage which showed the man "putting the can of gasoline down and [taking] out the spray paint. That was the first thing he did and thankfully the last thing."

Police said they received a call from the synagogue's security guard at 1:30 p.m. The guard was able to keep the suspect at the scene until police arrived to make the arrest.


A spokesperson for the SPVM said the suspect was 28 years old and likely suffering from mental health problems. The suspect will remain in police custody until he appears in court on Thursday and will likely be ordered to undergo a mental evaluation. 

"One is not surprised when another anti-Semitic attack happens against one of the beloved institutions in our community," said Scheier.

"There is a sense of vulnerability and fear, but I want to make it very clear, the support that has come in the last few hours has been overwhelming and beautiful. Whether it's from members of our community, other clergy of all different faiths, they've reached out and offered support."

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Rabbi Reuben Poupko, co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said the Jewish community is "outraged by today's vile assault."

"This attack targets the entire community and all those who embrace civility and tolerance," he said.

"Coming in the wake other violent anti-Semitic attacks, it is yet another reminder of the dangerous role social media continues to play in the spreading of hate and the provocation of violence. The Jewish community calls on government and social media to redouble their efforts to monitor and halt this propagation of antisemitism and bigotry." 

The synagogue, like all houses of worship in Montreal, is currently not holding religious services due to COVID-19 public health regulations.