Desecration of Montreal-area synagogue 'one of the worst such incidents in years': B'Nai Brith
MONTREAL -- A Montreal man discovered Wednesday that his synagogue had been desecrated, anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled on the walls. A day later he says can still barely grasp what he saw.
“This is...most heinous, in terms of how it was done,” said Ralph Amar, a congregant at the Congregation Sepharde Kol Yehudaa, a small, home-based synagogue in Cote-St-Luc, an on-island Montreal suburb with a large Jewish population.
“To throw religious items in the washroom is beyond any explanation.”
Amar, going to the synagogue Wednesday to pick up ritual items for a burial, discovered a horrifying scene.
A Torah had been cut up and stuffed in a toilet, he says. Artifacts had been broken, prayer shawls also left in the bathroom, and the floors covered in red paint.
The walls had anti-Semitic slurs scrawled on them.
Amar described it as “carnage.”
B'Nai Brith called the desecration "one of the worst such incidents to take place in Canada in years."
"This disgusting act of antisemitism comes on the eve of our holiday of Shavuot, a celebration of the Jews receiving the Torah, especially the Ten Commandments,” Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, said in a statement. Shavuot begins Thursday night.
Amar said the timing also made the discovery especially appalling to him.
“On behalf of all the Jewish community, we deplore this, especially on the eve of our upcoming Jewish holiday,” he said.
Torah scrolls are such sacred religious artefacts in Judaism that they are generally buried in a cemetery when damaged, B'Nai Brith said.
Sylvie Moyal, administrator of Congregation Sepharde Kol Yehuda, said she did not know when the ransacking occurred.
The synagogue had been closed since mid-March due to the pandemic.
Moyal noted that the synagogue had not received any threats, and had no idea who may have been responsible for the attack.
“We are shocked and outraged," Moyal said. "It’s a kind of betrayal that we never thought we’d go through."
Neighbours told CTV that they’d heard nothing strange over the past weeks and had no idea anyone had broken into the synagogue. There were also no signs of forced entry on the property.
Police reportedly said, however, they found a window that wasn’t latched properly.
B'Nai Brith has reported the incident to Montreal police and requested that other area synagogues be checked in case they too have been broken into during the COVID-19 shutdown. One local city councillor said the city is planning to step up surveillance around religious sites.
David Birnbaum, the Liberal MNA for the D'Arcy-McGee riding that includes Cote-St-Luc, called the incident "deplorable."
"What a disgusting, cowardly and hurtful act of vandalism," Birnbaum told CTV News. "I expect that police will make every effort to catch the hateful jerk who perpetrated this act."
Synagogues and other religious buildings in Quebec have been closed for the past couple of months because of public health orders aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.