York Regional Police are investigating a brazen act of vandalism committed against a Chabad synagogue in Thornhill, Ont.
On the morning of March 21, a thrown rock smashed the glass front doors of Chabad Flamingo in the Bathurst Street and Highway 7 area.
York Regional Police’s hate crimes unit has been notified and is “engaged” in the investigation, spokesperson Const. Maria Orlovski told The CJN hours after the incident.
In a Facebook post, Rabbi Mendel Kaplan, the synagogue’s spiritual leader, wrote that security cameras showed a man walking by the shul, “stopping multiple times looking for rocks — and then running back twice to hatefully smash the glass doors.”
In a security-camera video posted on Facebook, a person wearing a winter jacket, whose face is obscured by a hood, is seen picking up a large rock and throwing it energetically against one of the synagogue’s glass doors, smashing it.
A second video, time stamped 9:40 a.m., shows what appears to be the same person heaving a rock against a glass door. The rock breaks in two and the attacker is seen walking away, only to return seconds later to pick up a remnant of the rock and throw it at the door again.
“Clearly this is a willful and premeditated attack on a synagogue,” Rabbi Kaplan wrote on Facebook.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded on Twitter a day after the attack.
“No matter when and how these despicable incidents happen, we will always be there for the Jewish community across Canada,” he wrote. “You have our full support, and we thank the police for their work to bring the person responsible to justice.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne issued a statement earlier condemning the attack and “any instance of anti-Semitism.”
“There is no place for racism of any kind in our province,” she stated. “All forms of hate are completely unacceptable. Our government stands with Rabbi Kaplan, the members of the Chabad at Flamingo Synagogue and our entire Jewish community during this difficult time.”
Local MPP Gila Martow responded with a statement the afternoon of the attack, saying, “The Jewish community sadly continues to be one of the most targeted minority groups. Today’s events are a reminder that there is much work to be done in combating the forces of hate and anti-Semitism.”
Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, said that “it is both despicable and lamentable that someone would feel the need to resort to such vile behaviour … We trust that police will investigate this matter seriously.”
Noah Shack of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said in a statement that his organization was “disgusted by the video” of the attack.
“Whenever a synagogue is vandalized in this way, it conjures memories of some of the worst moments of Jewish history,” said Shack. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with Chabad Flamingo and its membership at this challenging time.”
He added that CIJA’s security team stands ready to assist any synagogue looking to strengthen its security systems and protocols.