There’s a rash of antisemitic vandalism around Toronto; police are treating this defacing as a hate crime

Graffiti at Toronto's Beth Sholom Synagogue

There’s been a rash of antisemitic graffiti in the Greater Toronto Area, and police are investigating one incident as a suspected hate-motivated crime.

B’nai Brith Canada reports that earlier this week, a vehicle in the parking garage of a midtown Toronto apartment building was defaced with swastikas. That same day, Charlton Public School, located in a heavily Jewish Thornhill neighbourhood, was hit with swastikas and other graffiti.

And on Sunday, the date the federal election was called, participants in a Toronto-area Jewish baseball league found a giant swastika drawn in the sand at Harding Park in Richmond Hill, where they were set to play that morning. That incident is under investigation by York Regional Police, B’nai Brith noted.

As well, a downtown Toronto sign calling for “#nohate against Jews” was vandalized to read “Free Palestine” and “Zionists aren’t Jews.”

This comes after swastikas were daubed on election signs of Jewish candidates in Montreal, an act which federal leaders denounced.

Finally, on the morning of Aug. 18, Toronto Police received a call after graffiti and a stylized swastika were found alongside the main entrance of Beth Sholom Synagogue on Eglinton Avenue West.

The investigation “is being treated as a suspected hate-motivated offence,” police said in a statement on Aug. 19.

Police say a man went to the synagogue and spray-painted antisemitic graffiti.

The suspect is described as male, 5’8”, skinny build, wearing blue jeans, dark T-shirt, baseball cap, black running shoes, and black backpack.

Security camera images of the suspect have been released.

Security camera outside Beth Sholom Synagogue

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-1300, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at, online on our Facebook Leave a Tip page, or text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637). Download the free Crime Stoppers Mobile App on iTunes or Google Play.

If a person is charged and convicted of a hate-motivated offence, a judge will take into consideration hate as an aggravating factor when imposing a sentence, police said.

In a statement, Rabbi Aaron Flanzraich, spiritual leader of Beth Sholom, said that even after police swiftly responded “and our collective shock settled, we realized that this is far from being done. Long after the offensive images are removed, we will be left with the memory and message of it: antisemitism is not something distant, found only in headlines and statistics. As of this morning, it’s on our front step.”

Synagogue staff was safe, he said, adding that the building will be open on Shabbat morning for services, “as we will be on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We have been through a difficult year with all the setbacks COVID has given us, and wider currents of antisemitism that has prolifically displayed itself this year. But neither the twists of nature nor the hatred of people will deter us from being what we are blessed to be: Jews.”

Coincidentally, Toronto police announced on Monday that Carlos Anaya-Sanchez, 59, has been charged with one count of mischief under $5,000 in connection with swastikas drawn on chairs at Downsview Park in June, B’nai Brith pointed out. It is also being investigated as a hate crime.

“The continued use of the Nazi swastika in an attempt to intimidate Jewish communities is reprehensible and unacceptable,” Michael Mostyn, B’nai Brith’s CEO, said in a news release.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center president and CEO Michael Levitt said the rash of antisemitic incidents “reaffirms what Toronto Police hate crime statistics had revealed, which is that antisemitic attacks are on the rise and the Jewish community continues to be the most victimized group. It’s extremely disturbing to see such anti-Jewish hate be spread across the Greater Toronto Area.

“It’s urgent for all Canadians to reject and call out antisemitism in all its forms and work to eradicate this type of hate from our society,” Levitt said.