The head of Toronto’s TanenbaumCHAT addressed a bomb threat that led to evacuation of the Jewish high school

Jonathan Levy, head of school at TanenbaumCHAT in Toronto speaking to reporters after a bomb threat at the school, Nov. 17, 2023 (Credit: Lila Sarick)

Toronto’s largest Jewish high school, TanenbaumCHAT, was evacuated after an email bomb threat warned that “many Jews will die today.”

Toronto Police searched the school, including with a canine unit, and reported that no explosives were found. The bomb threat is being investigated as a hate crime, said Toronto Police Inspector Jack Gurr

 At 11:15 a.m. on Nov. 17, the school received an email warning titled “Death by fire” that warned “Multiple bombs have been placed in your buildings and in your car lot. Many jews (sic) will die today.”

The school immediately called police and evacuated students to a nearby synagogue, Jonathan Levy, head of TanenbaumCHAT, said at an outdoor news conference.

“As a community, we are incredibly upset and outraged that these kinds of antisemitic events continue to take place,” he said. “All of our students, all staff, all people deserve to live in an environment where they can come to school and go to work, free of these kinds of threats.”

It was the second time the school has been targeted in the past six weeks. A few days after the war between Israel and Hamas began, students were threatened by three people who approached the school. One man and two young offenders were charged in that incident.

“It is scary and it is worrisome that this has been happening, and that this has escalated,” Levy said. “We will continue to rely on the wonderful police services that have been around and hope that the perpetrators are quickly brought to justice.”

The police’s cyber-crimes unit will investigate the email, but an arrest in these circumstances is “very difficult,” Gurr said.

Toronto police have been visiting faith-based schools, mosques and synagogues on a “pro-active patrol,” he said.

“We’re trying our best to make the community feel safe and supported during this really difficult time that everyone’s dealing with. We understand that there’s people in our community who don’t want to display who they are, that’s a horrible thing.”

Toronto police have dramatically increased the size of the hate crimes unit, boosting the numbers to 20 investigators and eight special constables, to handle the growing number of hate-related incidents. Prior to Oct. 7, the unit had six officers.

Toronto city councillor James Pasternak, whose ward includes the high school, says all level of government, including the city, could do more to send a message that hate, and specifically antisemitism, is not tolerated.

“We need a firm response from politicians that roving mobs that clog our streets, that harass restaurants and stores, that take advantage of our liberties, we should be speaking out against them in every way possible.”

Meanwhile, also on Nov. 17, Gan Shalom, a Jewish daycare in York Region, went into lockdown and called police after a man threatened the school’s security guard.

A mosque in York Region received a bomb threat as well.