TORONTO — Jews and Christians stood shoulder to shoulder in Toronto Nov. 25 at a moving memorial/prayer service for the four rabbis and a police officer murdered by knife and hatchet-wielding terrorists in the Nov. 18 massacre at Har Nof, Israel.
Held at Canada Christian College and sponsored by B’nai Brith Canada and Christians United for Israel (CUFI) one week after the attack, the solemn hour-long vigil heard local rabbis and ministers alternate prayers with declarations of resistance to terrorism. Five candles were lit in memory of the victims who were butchered as they recited morning prayers in synagogue, and of the Druse policeman who responded.
(As of Nov. 26, former Torontonian Howie Rothman, a Canadian-Israeli citizen wounded in the attack, remained in critical condition).
The brazen attack represents a line that was crossed, and “the unfortunate truth is, on far too many occasions and for far too many years, terrorists have been crossing these lines on a daily basis,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn told the roughly 500 in attendance. “They proudly proclaim their desire to destroy not only the Jewish state but the Jewish nation as a whole.
“It is a story we have seen time and again throughout history: Jews slaughtered for no other reason than being Jewish.” And, he added, those who threaten Jews “ultimately threaten us all.”
Young people are being radicalized “to the same deadly agenda,” Mostyn said, and “the threat is real and it is present in our country.”
Rabbi Daniel Korobkin of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Synagogue said the attacks were all the more senseless because Har Nof is in an uncontested part of west Jerusalem and the victims were completely removed from political events. All four rabbis killed were immigrants to Israel, he pointed out.
“Their whole lives were dedicated exclusively to the study of the Bible and the Talmud. They were teachers, they were fathers, they were grandfathers. And all they were doing was going to synagogue, as they did every single day of their lives.
“This is what makes it so painful, because it was so senseless.”
Rev. Gary Beesley of Toronto’s Evangel Temple noted that he and a group of fellow Christians had recently returned from Israel, “and those who were with me had a profound and quick education on how things are seen in different parts of the world [and] how truth can be turned into a lie.”
Rabbi Chaim Strauchler of Shaarei Shomayim Congregation called on those present “to continue the prayers of the victims, to complete the words they were not able to complete.”
Delivering a stirring prayer for Israel, the Jewish people and peace was Rev. Peter Marshall of Victory International Church in Hamilton, who earned applause when he said that while prayers for peace are needed, “I’d also like to pray for leadership because our world needs leadership.”
Rabbi Howard Morrison of Beth Emeth Synagogue noted that one of the massacre’s victims, Rabbi Moshe Twersky, had been his tutor at Maimonides Day School in Brookline, Mass., in 1973. Rabbi Morrison led the audience in reciting Psalm 23.
Good will come from the Har Nof tragedy, predicted Rev. Tony Soldano, lead pastor at All People’s Church in Brampton, because God will fulfil prophesy and avenge the Jewish People.
Greetings on behalf of Israel were brought by Irit Stopper, deputy consul general in Toronto, who praised “decency and humanity” in the face of “fanatical barbarism” and said the friendship shown by Christians to the Jewish state is “deeply appreciated.”
The gathering also heard from former B’nai Brith Canada CEO Frank Dimant and from Canada Christian College president Charles McVety, who also heads CUFI, the largest pro-Israel group in North America, with 95,000 members in Canada and 1.6 million in the United States.
National anthems and the Kel Maleh Rachamim prayer were recited by Beth Emeth Cantor David Edwards.